lycomayflower reads things in 2016 she hasn't read before--part the second
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Welcome to part two of my 2016 reading thread! Click here to go to my intoduction post. The photo above is a couple of peaks of Mount TBR, with Luthien the Intrepid on an adventure.
This first post contains an on-going list of the books I've read this year, with the most recent reads at the top. Click on the book title to go to the book's post within the thread, where you will find a review. Numbers in parentheses are page counts for each book. Click here to go to the first half of my 2016 thread or here to visit my 2015 thread.
Total Pages: 19,990
94.) Santa Baby (336)
93.) Geneis (150)
92.) Papa Gato
91.) Finding Winnie
90.) A Castle Full of Cats
89.) Gator Gumbo
88.) The Clothing of Books (71)
87.) A Christmas Carol (131)
86.) By the Shores of Silver Lake (290)
85.) Winter Wonderland (203)
84.) Sleigh Ride (253)
83.) Classic Novels: Meeting the Challenge of Great Literature (audio)
82.) We Mammals in Hospitable Times (52)
81.) True-Blue Cowboy Christmas (343)
80.) Talking as Fast as I Can (audio)
79.) Fangirl (438)
78.) Honor Girl (~150)
76.) Coffee at Luke's (audio)
75.) Ancillary Justice (384)
74.) Sea Swept (247)
73.) This One Summer (~150)
72.) Bared to You (334)
71.) Pansies (376)
70.) Devoted (328)
69.) Gilead (247)
68.) Grayson volume 1 (~100)
67.) Mariner's Luck (188)
66.) Merry Men #3
65.) Limitations (197)
64.) It's a Don's Life (278)
63.) Silver Sparrow (340)
62.) Merry Men #2
61.) Glitterland (202)
60.) Witch, Please (audio)
59.) Capture & Surrender (192)
58.) For Real (332)
57.) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (308)
56.) Dear Committee Members (180)
55.) Death on the Nile (audio)
54.) Losing It (205)
53.) Let It Snow (205)
52.) Long Hard Ride (287)
51.) The Girl Next Door (272)
50.) Summer Days and Summer Nights (384)
49.) The Royal Nanny (357)
48.) The Year of Yes (audio)
47.) 11/22/63 (1089)
46.) The Geek Feminist Revolution (287)
45.) Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle (162)
44.) Merry Men #1
43.) The Three Body Problem (399)
42.) Edie Ernst, USO Singer, Allied Spy (~100)
41.) Repotting Harry Potter (338)
40.) The World Split Open (188)
39.) Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (98)
38.) Is It Just Me? (audio)
37.) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (734)
36.) Gena/Finn (287)
35.) Me Before You (369)
34.) Changing His Game (199)
33.) The Optimist's Daughter (audio)
32.) Double Blind (292)
31.) The Gamble (644)
30.) Symptoms of Being Human (335)
29.) A Tale for the Time Being (418)
28.) Because of Mr. Terupt (268)
27.) Kindred Spirits (62)
26.) Tough Love (308)
25.) 36 Books that Changed the World (audio)
24.) Pent Up (273)
23.) Glitterland (202)
22.) The Madwoman Upstairs (339)
21.) The Pedlar and the Bandit King (239)
20.) Lord Savage (292)
19.) Nimona (~150)
18.) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (359)
17.) Lit Up (249)
16.) Outing the Quarterback (194)
15.) Lumberjanes vol. 2 (~100)
14.) Waiting for the Flood (78)
13.) Toward the Winter Solstice (61)
12.) Lumberjanes vol. 1 (~100)
11.) Kings Rising (341)
10.) What We See When We Read (419)
9.) Maurice (255)
8.) The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (audio)
7.) For Real (332)
6.) The Burnt Toast B&B (214)
5.) Peril at End House (audio)
4.) Hercule Poirot's Christmas (audio)
3.) Luke Skywalker Can't Read (208)
2.) Murder on the Links (audio)
1.) Whale Talk (298)
Hello! My name is Laura, and this is the ninth year I've kept an LT thread tracking and reviewing my reading (and the twenty-fifth year I've tracked my reading in some way--should there be a cake or something?). I read pretty widely, but I'm most likely to read romance, memoir, mysteries, YA, sci-fi, fantasy, and literary fiction. I'm in my mid-thirties, worked as an editor until this past spring, am married to a fellow reader, and carry on living in the south (it's been the majority of my adult life now) despite constantly missing winter and wanting to move back north (I grew up in north-east Pennsylvania). When I'm not reading, I like to crochet, bowl, swim, and watch TV. This fall I'll be embarking on a new adventure: I'm going back to school (again! I already have a little stack of degrees) to study biology. Despite the fact I expect this to cut into my reading time, I'm very excited! Please feel free to talk to me here. I love a good bookish conversation!
This year I'm setting myself an amorphous goal to read things that are new to me. In 2015, I read a lot of things (through no particular design) that fell into categories of books that I've never read much before (audiobooks, comics, and romance), and I had a great reading year. I'm hoping to do that a little more intentionally this year by seeking out kinds of reading that I haven't done before (or haven't done in a long time or haven't done often). I don't really want to set myself specific goals (because I know I will rebel against them), but some notions I have for this kind of reading include: more books by diverse authors (especially by poc, trans, and lesbian authors), poetry, literary fiction from my shelves, and loooong books I've been avoiding "because I won't make my book count goal." In 2015 I blew past my book count goal (I was shooting for 75, then I was shooting for 79 (to break my best ever reading year), then for 100, then to break my record for most pages read in a year. I ended at 107 books, and broke all those personal bests.), so I'm going to try in 2016 to pay less attention to the numbers and not avoid things I want to read because "they will slow me down."
I'm also moving a lot of my tracking (of things like whether a book came from the library or is a new book et cetera) off of LT and into a spreadsheet. I will still track a handful of these here throughout the year and will probably still include some of that information in monthly reading round ups. (You can see some yearly totals here.) But no more bulky key in my completed reads post with abbreviations even I couldn't remember half the time!
(updated 1 October)
Total Books: 68
Shelf Books: 8
Audio Books: 10
500+ pages: 3
Ire., Aus., N. Zea., S.Afr.: 1
Starting the last week of August, I'm going back to school! I realized about halfway through my PhD that I did not love college/uni teaching enough to deal with the loooong hours and bureaucratic nonsense that go with it. I finished the degree then started sort of kicking about trying to find a different path than the planned-on attempt at tenure-track professorial work. I worked as an editor for three years, and while that was by turns challenging, fun, and educational, it never quite felt like The Thing I Want To Do For A Long Time. So I'm going back to try my hand at a BS, having a go at some stuff I've always been interested in but gave a miss in college (and the end of high school, really) because I was super focused on the thing I was best at (English). I'll be starting part time to see how taking courses fits into our lives, how much I struggle with the work, and whether I really, actually, want to carry on. I'm excited (and apprehensive--it's been nine years since I did coursework and waaaay longer than that since I did math and science). I suspect that the mad reading numbers (for me) I've been putting up will not continue, but reading isn't everything. Right?
What a thunderous collection of appalling humans this was. The story starts with a cold, calculating young husband killing his wife and her lover, cutting off their hands, hiding them in a biscuit tin, and depositing the tin in an abandoned house foundation. We then jump forward six decades to a time when the tin has been found and follow the lives of a group of people who were children at the time of the murders--and who used to play in that adandoned house foundation. The book is not a mystery--the only thing we as readers don't know right from the start is the identity of the man (the lover) who was killed. This is revealed without any traditional mystery methods (there aren't really any clues, no one is really doing any detecting or sleuthing). The characters also don't know who did it at first, but again, no investigation happens (on the page; there is a police inspector inspecting, but he hardly figures into things). All that's not my problem with the book--I was fine with a story following the events and characters that arose from the murder rather than a murder mystery per se.
My problem with the book was... everything else? I hated most of the characters. That's not a problem if they are compelling or interesting and/or something else about the book (the plot, the prose) is good enough to keep me interested. But the characters aren't that compelling or interesting. They're just people. And hey! I love quiet character studies about people who are just people. But not if I hate them all (not just don't like them--hate them). This is mostly character study, so there was no plot to pick up that slack. The prose, I think, is objectively very good, but subjectively, it made me want to climb the walls. So many interjecting asides offering a detail that tweaks the sentence. "A bill came--ridiculous for a drop of coffee--but she found the precise sum in her purse, laid it on the table, and added a five-pence piece."* I don't know why, but this makes me craaaaazy. Something to do with the abrupt change from distant third to close? Dunno. I've encountered it elsewhere, and it makes my skin crawl. Also, we're meant to understand that the characters are all ooold. Past it. Completely left behind by the world they're living in. But they're in their mid-seventies? So some of them, sure, probably are at a complete loss when it comes to technology and feel like the world has become unrecognizable from the one they knew. But all of them? And the characters keep making these little remarks about how people say things this way now instead of some other way, and most of the time I thought, "Do they?" This could be a American/Brit thing, of course, but it felt like Rendell was overreaching for the details that make this group of characters feel out of place by aging. "He had a glass of wine and then another, hoping to deaden his feelings. 'Drown your sorrows,' people used to say."** Is this something people actively don't say anymore? It doesn't sound out of date to me at all. And if it's not out of date, the moment makes no sense. It's not like they're sitting around going, "Gosh, no one says 'Twenty-three skidoo anymore.'" The examples are weird. And there's this sense throughout that they're all completely bewildered by things like computers and email. SOME OF THEM WOULD HAVE USED SUCH THINGS AT WORK FROM WHICH THEY LIKELY ONLY RETIRED +-TEN YEARS AGO. Aaaaah. (The story takes place ~2014.) It's the insistence on the universality of the attitudes that drove me nuts. Of course there are some seventy-seven year old women who haven't the first foggy notion about modern tech. And there are some WHO DO. *takes a deep breath* It's entirely possible that this was meant to be part of the character study, as many of these ideas are attached to individual characters' points of view, but the presentation is such that it felt like a universal notion coming from the author. At least (I guess?) the prejudice goes the other way too. Young people, by virtue of being young, are incapable of knowing about anything that happened before they were born. >:-/
So much of what I disliked about this book was probably idiosyncratic--pet peeves and the like. And much of it was the kind of thing that once I got irritated by it, my irritation just grew with each successive example. This is probably a pretty good character study. If you're not me.
* p. 224
** p. 233
***For Book Club
Erotic romance about an east-coast girl who hooks up with a trio of cowboys on the rodeo circuit and falls in love with one of them. Entertaining, and with a neat sense of what the subculture of the rodeo circuit is about. Falls apart a little bit in the end when things get all Real Emoshuns, but fun and a one-sitting read for me. There's a bazillion of these in the series, apparently, but I don't know that I care to find them all. Am, however, seeking out the one that deals with a couple of characters in this one (not the MCs; they have an HEA) whose story was left kind of heart-breaky.
HEA = Happily Ever After
Best of luck with the life announcement. I look forward to updates on that front.
Thanks for the luck!
>13 foggidawn: Truly hateful characters are always a hard sell for me. I certainly have read books with characters I despised where I loved the book, but generally I need at least one person to root for.
>14 drneutron:, >15 PaulCranswick:, >16 Kassilem:, >17 Familyhistorian: Thanks, all!
As I read more of them, I find that one of the strengths of Cullinan's romances also creates their (usually only) weakness. Her novels typically focus on a group of friends with the romance happening between one of the friends and an outsider who then becomes part of the group. The exploration of the friendship dynamic tends to be excellent, and I really enjoy that aspect of her books. But it also tends to mean that the development of the romantic relationship is not as focused or as intense as I would like. That was the case in Let It Snow. Frankie gets lost in the North Woods of Minnesota just as a blizzard blows up and ends up staying with Arthur, Paul, and Marcus in their cabin to ride it out. Marcus and Frankie eventually end up falling for each other, and while we certainly get the development of their relationship on the page, we also get a lot of interaction among the four men, a lot of development of the community in which the three friends live, and a lot of exploration of masculinity. All of that is wonderful, and I think the book would be impoverished without it. I just wish there was a little more focus on the couple in addition to all that. I think I said this about the other book in this series I've already read, too: I wish the book had been twenty pages longer without anything else happening, just more development of what's already there. Despite the fact that Cullinan's romances often feel lately like they juuuust miss the mark to be fully satisfying, they're still some of my favorite go-to reads for comfy,* well-done romance.
*YMMV about the comfy, I guess. There tends to be an edge to Cullinan's stuff, but there's this sense that all that edginess is happening in a safe space (at least for the reader), and that makes them comfy for me.
New adult contemporary romance in which Bliss, a college senior, gets roped into a night out at a bar by her best friend in an attempt to wrangle Bliss a one night stand during which she can lose her virginity. At the bar, Bliss meets Garrick, who she has an immediate connection with, leaves with him, but finds that while she wants to have sex with him, she doesn't want to have sex yet. She runs out on him, embarrassed but sure she'll never see him again. The next day it turns outs Garrick is a last-minute semester-long substitute for one of her professors. And then things ensue. Entertaining with fun characters. Reminded me in tone a bit of a really nice romantic comedy. While Bliss has a nice revelation about sex and what it means for her, I would have liked a little more interrogation of why/if virginity matters and what that word even means. (Without going into graphic and spoilery detail, there was one moment in particular in the beginning that really made me say, "Ein Minuten bitte, she's going to do X with a dude but still consider herself a virgin, full stop, with no further consideration of the concept and/or why it matters to her?") Recommended for a fun read if you like this kind of thing.
Another audio book of an Agatha Christie mystery. We just love these. We started this one on our trip home from a visit to my parents' in April and didn't manage to finish. We kept meaning to knock it out of an evening or two but never got to it, so we finished her up on our drive to pick up Thursday. This has always been one of my favorites plot-wise, though gosh, the awfulness of some of her characters. We were a little wary of Suchet as narrator (only because we love Hugh Fraser so very much; Suchet is of course most excellent as Poirot himself on the TV) but he did a wonderful job. Recommended.
Yeah that worked for our labs but our terrier does what Mario did. She's persistent.
>30 lycomayflower: I can't imagine you could possibly ruin your puppy! But I do understand the worry. I think consistency is really key. We pretty much suck at that, which means our dogs have objectionable behaviors into early adulthood. The labs are now senior dogs (8 & 13) and have been mellow wonderful pooches for some time. So if we ruined them, it was in the best possible way. Alys the terrier, at 1.5yrs is still full of piss & vinegar. And we are still woefully inconsistent in dealing with it.
ETA: I do feel that the books are overly-dramatic, so don't panic on that account. Also, golden retrievers tend to be *very* treat-oriented, so treats are the key to getting her to do what you want. Mario will do anything for a treat, and in fact will sit and already have her paw raised for a shake before you can even ask, if she sees a treat in your hand. Ha!
At turns funny and effecting, this novel is told in a series of letters of recommendation written by a professor at a university. I admire Schumacher immensely for hitting the tone and atmosphere of academia so well and for the way she hits both the satire and the moments of real emotion. I did get maaaybe a little done with the premise before it was over, but not so much that it particularly detracted from my enjoyment of the book.
***spoiler alert. spoilers of a specific nature will be under cuts. you've been warned. spoiler alert.***
I went into this new Harry Potter play with no particular expectations except a niggling fear that it would feel wrong or tacked on and/or that it would in some way ruin Harry Potter. I was also a little skeptical of the format. Why a play rather than a novel (or novella) or a movie or some other form that we already know this world through? So when I sat down to read it yesterday morning I was delighted to look up around page thirty and say, somewhat wonderingly, "This is really good!"
This works as a play. I can't say that it would not work in some other format, but it feels like a play and I did not find the format disappointing or long for it to be presented otherwise. Rowling said something a while back about there being aspects of the story that meant it needed to be a play, and I can't quite put my finger on anything that makes me say, "Yep, that right there would not have worked any other way." But some of the elements do seem like they would be particularly suited to a stage performance with a live audience.
I also think the emotional pitch of the story would lend itself particularly well to a stage performance. There's a lot of high emotion here that I think it would be easy to overdo in a film but which, done well, would be perfectly suited to the stage, where the actors and the audience can achieve a kind of rapport. Furthermore, while a talented writer should certainly be able to pull off this story in novel form, there's of course something to be said for understanding which medium will serve the story best. And I think this story would be best served by a visual medium.
Of course, if you're reading the script, you're not experiencing all this in a visual medium, but somehow I think it still works better than it would have as a novel/la. The stage directions are there; one can "see" how it might be performed. For me, reading this script was a seamless, painless experience. I have some experience/training in reading plays, given my background, so this may be harder for readers who don't, but the script uses the stage directions very well to fill in what's happening for readers. In fact, I suspect the stage directions (at least in this version of the script that's been released for people to read, rather than to produce a play from) have been written specifically with readers who may never get to see the play in mind.
As for the story itself,
This play is not for children. It's not that it's not appropriate for (older) children--I'd say any child who could handle the last three books could handle the play--but it is not designed for children. There is no childlike, delightful magic here. This is not a world in which everything will probably turn out okay. This play exists in an adult world, one where
Some of that commentary tweaks perplexities of the novels in satisfying ways.
I've seen some complaints in reviews that the characters don't feel like themselves in the play. I agree by way of disagreeing heartily. By which I mean, no, this wasn't like reading an eighth Harry Potter novel where we pick up with the characters a month or two after we last saw them and everything is familiar and lovely. It's nineteen years later. They've grown up. They've become adult versions of themselves. They've become maybe a little less silly, maybe a little more serious, much more responsible, a bit more sad, a bit more distracted, a good deal more careworn. Their joys have become more complex; their sadnesses have grown thornier. They've become adults. I love, love, love the Harry Potter novels, I love them for the way they are magical themselves and delightful, and I do not for one second think there's anything wrong with giving children that view or with adults enjoying it too. But there's room for seeing these characters this way as well, and I do not fault the play for portraying them thus.
In fact, after just one read (I feel a reread coming on, possibly very soon), I only have two quibbles (aside from a slight dissatisfaction with some minor machinations of the plot):
This is the first time I've gotten to experience buying a Harry Potter book the day it came out, taking it home, and reading the whole thing. And it was glorious. I loved it. I loved getting to do it, and I loved the play itself. Recommended wholeheartedly.
Reread. Stress* makes my anxiety spike, which makes me reach for comfort reads. I loved this so much the first time, and it had the advantage of being familiar but not soooo familiar that I hardly feel like I'm reading the text anymore (looking at you, Pride and Prejudice, love). This fit the bill perfectly. (Incidentally, it won a RITA while I was reading it, though I didn't know it until afterwards. I love when that kind of thing happens.)
*New puppy = 65% adorable, awesome fun + 35% stress
(Touchstone brought up The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. *kicks something*)
Forty-one-year-old Frank is falling for twenty-five-year-old Stefan. The relationship is complicated by the age difference, by the fact that Frank is Stefan's employer, by the fact that Stefan is a rent-boy in Frank's establishment, by Frank's grief over the loss of his partner, and by the fact that Frank is positive. Of all these complications, the last three should be the most compelling, and while the story does spend a good deal of time on them (the last twenty pages or so, where they deal with everything, especially Frank's status, is really good), it also puts a lot of energy into the first two, which feel fairly unimportant in the face of the others. The age difference in particular seems way over emphasized, especially since Stefan is a mature twenty-five and Frank is not a particularly old forty-one. I dunno. I wanted to like this more than I did. The writing is good, the set-up fairly compelling. And there's kinky paintball, which, points for originality there. But the characters just didn't quite come alive for me. And it suffers in comparison to For Real, which does a much better job of exploring characterization. *shrug* YMMV.
A podcast discussing the Harry Potter books and films (and the occasional expanded world text, such as video games) through a feminist lens. I'm "finished" with the podcast--scare quotes because McGregor and Kosman are probably not finished with the podcast, but I have listened to all they've done so far, which includes discussions of all the books and films--and I'm counting it as an audio "book" as I did the Tolkien professor podcast I listened to a few years back or something like a Great Courses series of lectures. I enjoyed listening to this with a muchness, and McGregor and Kosman bring up many interesting points that made me think about the books and films in ways I hadn't before. As is so often true of criticism, especially that using a particular critical lens, I do think they allow that lens to over-determine their reading at times. I also wished they had considered more fully Rowling's use of satire throughout the books and how that satire does/might/can't/whatever mitigate some of the criticism they level at the text. They do discuss the satirical element of the books sometimes, but there were several instances where I felt like their reading didn't wholly consider the text because they didn't identify that a scene/chapter/etc was satire. Ultimately this may not change their conclusions, but the absence of that discussion made me cross. McGregor and Kosman use humor to great effect in the podcast, both to discuss the texts and dismantle misogynistic paradigms and just to make you laugh. Laughter, especially female laughter--as they point out in one of the episodes--is hugely important. I was, however, sometimes hyperaware of how they were using sarcasm as a means to shut down the space available for response to some of their arguments, and while I thought that sometimes that was a brilliant rhetorical move, there were also moments where the use of sarcasm seemed to unhelpfully shut down the possibility of views that differed from their own. In any case, on the whole, this was a fun, intellectually stimulating, rewarding way to spend a few dozen hours of ear-time. I've been listening to this near-constantly for a couple of weeks whenever I wasn't reading or doing something that put other sounds in my ears (television, whaaat), and I'm going to miss it.
Have a lovely Sunday.
Am ~60 pages into this one, and while I'm fairly well enjoying the memoir aspect of it, the Latin stuff is mind-numbing. Not because I'm not interested or because I don't care for Latin or anything--it's just that Patty's lengthy discussions of the ins and outs of the language are dry dry dry and seem to assume some knowledge of the language. She's not explaining things fully enough to really follow her discussions of the cases and declensions and so on and those discussions go on too long and in too much detail to for someone who doesn't understand what she's on about. Bummed about this one, but perhaps its just as well since it was due back at the library a few days ago and can't be renewed because holds. Oops.
I'll definitely have to look into Witch, Please and it may be about time I reread the original 7 anyway...
>56 PaulCranswick: Sounds like your headmaster was an excellent guy!
>59 drneutron: LOL. Hopefully someone out there liked all of it. *snort*
>60 bell7: Yeah, that bit in Cursed Child
School update: after attending a week of classes, I was pretty "meh" and "what are you even doing?" about the whole thing, which is not what I was expecting. I expected to be excited, but instead I just felt dragged down by the schedule and the workload and very mournful of all the things I couldn't do if I was putting 35+ hours a week into school. So, after a lot of soul-searching (and a good deal of handholding and other support from LW3, flamingrabbit, and husbeast), I decided not to carry on. (Despite the fact that going back to school was entirely a "because I'd like to" thing, not a thing I was doing out of any kind of necessity, this was a super hard decision for me. As LW3 said, "The last thing you quit was the swim team." When I was twelve.) So I'm recommitting energy to things I've been letting slide for a long time, namely writing, blogging, and exercising. I'm still a bit wibbly about the decision (this going back to school thing had been in the works for nine months), but a few days after making the decision, I still feel good about it. So. Onwards!
Thursday looking all noble in the living room. In between bouts of puppy demon-crazy, we are starting to see (both physically and in her behavior) that there is going to be a grown-up dog living with us someday. This is one of those grown up moments. It's about 15/85 grown-up glimpses/puppy demon-crazy right now. The humans oscillate between besotted and frazzled.
So cheers to you!!
and thanks for posting the puppiness!
I'm continuing to love this queer retelling of the Robin Hood legend. I especially liked the way this issue uses the historical situation coupled with the queerness of the characters to explain part of the legend (the persecution of the men of Sherwood). I have heard rumblings that this retelling pulls from actual historical speculation about the period and the legend, and I would love to find some discussion of queerness and Robin Hood from a scholarly, historical perspective. In any case, I'm eagerly looking forward to issue three.
***No touchstone because #$^*%*@
Set mostly in the eighties, this is the story of the daughters of James Witherspoon, bigamist. One daughter, the "secret" daughter, knows that her father is a bigamist and knows who his first wife and child are. The other daughter does not. The book is divided into two sections, one told from each daughter's point of view, and telling the story of this extended family and how the secret comes out.
I wanted to like this better than I did. I felt like the story was there and the writing was pretty good, but the book just didn't sing for me. There was no spark. I also had a lot of trouble holding the setting--1980s Atlanta--in mind. I constantly had to remind myself that it wasn't set in the fifties, because there seemed to be almost no cultural or pop cultural context (except for the occasional reference to Bill Cosby, and boy howdy does that play differently now than it would have when the book was published in 2011). Not a bad read, but disappointing in the end.
***For Book Club
No, seriously, good on ya, lady. I'm another who has a *really* difficult time 'quitting' things, but if you're feeling better about not doing it and you were about doing it, then it seems like you've done the right thing, eh?
>64 lycomayflower: Ohmygoodness, that pup. We're still waiting for the grown-up dog to show up at our house. Right now we have 75lbs of pure puppy. We love her to bits, though.
^Two or three years ago, when she was still very much herself. Bonus rare husbeast sighting.
^Expressing her displeasure with those silly humans and their noises. Like sneezing.
^Old lady be in charge of all of you wretches.
An appellate court judge must decide a case that brings up unpleasant memories from his own past and confuses the matter for him. He's also receiving strange, threatening emails from an unknown source.
I really enjoyed the way this short novel explored the issues of law surrounding the case involved while coupling them with the personal issues of the judge. The suspense-y mystery-y bit about who was sending him the emails was less interesting to me, but it has a really excellent resolution and pay-off in the end. Recommended.
This second book picks up right where the first one left off. I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first one, although the world building is still a draw. Liall and Scarlet spend most of this book on a ship (four months storytime, traveling to Liall's home), and that dragged a bit for me. The story really came alive this time when they arrive in Rshan na Ostre and we get to see Liall's family and culture. I can't quite put my finger on why this series isn't crack for me (judging by the elements, it should be), but possibly it's that the style doesn't really sing. It's not as vivid as I might like and neither is it lyrical and dense and poetic or something. I have a really hard time getting into the story. *shrug* Probably still going to keep reading them, because I do want to know what happens.
I feel like I probably need to have a better handle on the DC universe to fully understand what is going on here. The art is good, and some elements of the story Bat my Robin*, but I was confused a lot. I have the second trade as well, so I'll probably read that one eventually and see if things sort themselves in my brain at all, but if not, I'm content not to follow this one, as I don't feel compelled to do the reading/reading up to catch myself up should that prove necessary.**
*Sorry not sorry.
**Long sentence is long.
John Ames is dying, and he will leave behind his younger wife and small son. He takes to writing his remembrances for his son, so that the boy will have some way of knowing the father he likely will not remember. The novel is those remembrances, and it forms a long meditation on John's life, his loves, his family, and his religion.
I enjoyed this a lot, and feel that in order to grasp it fully, I really ought to read it a second time. But even on only one read it is clear that Robinson has written something special here. Many passages struck me as quite lovely and as getting at some nugget of truth. The whole thing was slow going, and mostly I didn't mind that, but perhaps I didn't love the novel quite enough not to be sometimes impatient with it. But altogether a very good read, and it makes me keen to read the two companion novels someday.
***For Book Club
Seventeen-year-old Rachel lives with her parents and nine siblings in rural Texas, where they follow the teachings of Quiverful fundamentalist Christianity. A family tragedy intensifies feelings of doubt about their way of life for Rachel, and eventually she leaves to explore a more worldly life.
This YA novel was an intense read; I couldn't put it down because I had to know whether Rachel was going to be okay. This is a good story, well told, but perhaps what's most impressive about the novel is the even-handedness it shows in depicting both Rachel's family and her need to leave them. While it is made clear that Mathieu thinks the Quiverful movement is damaging to children and oppressive to women, she still portrays Rachel's parents as largely good people who are doing their best to raise their children in the way they think they should. I was also happy that ultimately Rachel does not give up her religion, just the particular brand of it she was raised in. I think a wholesale rejection of Christianity would have made the book considerably less complicated and compelling (and I would have felt sorry for Rachel, as her devotion was important to her and it was not that, itself, that she felt constricted her). While I always have a moment of pause about books written about communities on the margins not written by members of those communities, I think Mathieu has done a credible job of making the issues here multi-faceted and avoiding a black-and-white representation of how parents "should" or "should not" raise their children within religion. Fascinating. Recommended.
Have a lovely weekend.
Have a lovely weekend.
So, at this point I basically feel like Alexis Hall can do no wrong. His books are always well written, entertaining, sexy, and peopled by fascinating characters it's fun to get to know. Pansies is no exception. What I think of as the "markers" of Hall's contemporary romances are all here: characters from a specific place that deeply informs who they are; attention to detail, especially details about things the characters do (their work, etc) which illustrate who the characters are; at least one "weighty" issue handled brilliantly; excellent side characters; a fight that you see coming but don't really see how the characters could avoid; a deep dive into character dynamics; and a happy ending. This time the story follows two men who hated each other as children (one bullied the other) but who fall for each other when circumstances draw them both back to their home town. Recommended.
An erotic romance between two people with trauma in their pasts who find some kind of solace in each other. Someone described this (negatively) somewhere as *relationship drama* *sex* *relationship drama* *sex* over and over, and my reaction was, "Yes? Is erotic romance? What were you expecting, a jewel heist?" But now I've finished it, I sort of see what they mean. It's not, maybe, that I wanted more than the sex and relationship drama (I mean, don't order Cheerios and then be peeved that they aren't Corn Flakes when they come), but maybe that there could have been more to it?
Some romance novels I read and I feel like the author is really getting at something about human beings or love or sex or relationships in the story, that the reader will come away from the book knowing something they didn't know before or understanding something in a new way. And others feel a bit, okay, "I'll take this problem for the heroine from Column A, and that issue for the hero from Column C, and let's make the sex kinky, and right, the mother's controlling, and hmm I'll give the hero this high profile profession from List 12, and the heroine this related but not at all glamorous profession from List 7, toss, and go!" Which, hey, is probably a pretty effective way of getting the bones of a story down and carrying on. But I don't want it to feel that way when I read it. This is personal preference more than anything else, I guess, but I like stories to feel like discoveries, like the characters revealed themselves to the author, not like the author picked a bunch of traits and stuck them together and ran with it. Whatever the process actually was, I'm happiest when it feels like discovery to me when I read. And this didn't.
Don't get me wrong--it was entertaining enough, and it does what it does pretty well, and I *am* probably going to read the next one because I *do* want to know what happens. But I'm a little bit grumpy about it.
YA graphic novel about two pre-adolescent girls spending the summer with their families at a lake. Deals with the ways they start to understand things about the adult world by watching the older kids (in their late teens) and the adults around them. A lot about body image and beginning (mis)understandings about sex, what it is, how it works, what it's "supposed" to mean. The adults around them are dealing with some pretty heavy stuff, too, and the reader slowly starts to understand, as the girls do, what's going on there. Very good, very well done. Artwork is excellent. (This is a Caldecot Honor Book, and I gather that's generated a bit of a ballyhoo, as it is not a "picture book" intended for young children but rather an illustrated book intended for, oh I'd say, 12+. Not sure where I fall here except to say: it's an excellent book excellently illustrated for (older) children and it is definitely not what I think of when I think of the Caldecot. *shrug* No real pony in the race, I guess.) Recommended. (Definitely a book to read along with kids, though, (especially the under-sixteens, I'd say) and be ready and available to discuss. Important and disturbing.)
A family drama/romance novel following three adoptive brothers in the aftermath of their adoptive father's unexpected death. There are questions about the circumstances of the car accident that killed him, there's a ten-year-old boy he was in the process of adopting, there's a pretty social worker the oldest brother finds pretty irresistible. I was fairly impressed for the first third of this novel--Roberts puts the family drama on the page with skill, and the relationship among the three adult brothers is well done. The ten year old read like a ten year old, the setting of the Chesapeake Bay was decently evoked. But as the novel went on, I got less interested in it. The female lead was the least well crafted of all the characters, the sex read like obligatory graphic but not character-specific sex scenes from the kind of eighties movie that was way more interested in something else but felt like it had to get at least one of those scenes in, and watching how Roberts got her characters to their HEA felt perfunctory rather than fun. What I liked about the book in the beginning carried on being good throughout, but the rest of it kind of soured the whole thing for me.
I don't think I'll try to explain what this sci-fi novel is about, as I'm sure others have already done so and I'm blanking a bit on how to go about it without spoiling the great pleasure it is to slowly figure out what is going on and how the world in the book works. You have to sit with a lot of confusion for quite a while in the beginning, but eventually it all starts to come together, and that's great. Excellent world building here, fascinating characters, and the way Leckie makes the reader interrogate gender by using only female pronouns throughout most of the book (the language, presented to the reader as English, the main character and narrator speaks does not mark for gender) is compelling and really well done. Recommended.
***For Book Club
I read this collection of essays about Gilmore Girls awhile back but listened to it on audio recently while I was doing a lot of chores around that house. It was a good listen for that kind of work, where I wanted distraction but couldn't be either too distracted or too upset if I zoned for a bit and missed a few minutes.
ETA: I just went back to look at my review of this one from the first time I read it, and I see that the book I read next was Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl. Aaaand that's the next book we're reading for Book Club. Weird.
>105 lycomayflower: I had the Chesapeake Bay series once, it was the first Nora Roberts I knowingly read and it wasn't bad as a series. I think the first was my least favorite. Ethan and Phillip have more interesting stories and piecing together Seth's story was interesting.
You mentioned missing snow. I think if I moved, I would miss the fall and all the lovely colors.
And, congratulations on reading 76 books thus far this year. I like your opening image of piles of books and your dear cat among them.
Happy weekend to you.
Thanksgiving is about family and I want to thank you for plenty of entertaining jousts with your Mom. xx
>109 dragonaria: Ooo, well in that case, maybe I'll read the next one, since I do have it. I did like quite a few of the elements of the story, so maybe I will like the rest of the series better.
>110 Whisper1: I grew up outside of Scranton. Same general neck of the woods, for sure!
>113 PaulCranswick: Thank you, Paul! That makes me happy. And it amused me that others find us entertaining. *WE* sure do!
A graphic novel that traces all of the things that have happened over the centuries in the spot where the living room of a house now stands. A neat concept, and the art was great. Some of the images were striking, and it's a little mind-blowing to think about the ways one little piece of land changes over hundreds of years. Tired a little of it by the end though.
A reread for book club. Enjoyed this the second time around, though not as much as the first time, when it was something akin to a bolt from the blue. The last hundred pages dragged for me a bit this time, but on the whole this is still lovely and just excellently put together. It's also the first book that was primarily words that get read with eyeballs (rather than listened to with earballs) that I've been able to stick with or care about enough to keep coming back to for weeks and weeks. And for that: *smooches* and love forever, Fangirl.
Neat premise with some intriguing hints about where the story was going with werewolf lore. But the writing felt weirdly off, and I couldn't get into the story. The main character also felt dead on the page--there was nothing to grab hold of and keep my interest despite the promise of the set-up.
Oh well. Happy Saturday!
Lauren Graham's memoir, what does what it says on the tin. This was the perfect blend of memoir about Graham as a person, tidbits about what it was like to work on the projects she's best known for (and a few others), and little bits of wisdom about being a creative person in the world. I loved listening to this (Graham read the audio book herself, and that was a delight). Recommended to any of her fans, whole-heartedly. (No revival plot spoilers, but you probably still want to have seen it before you read/listen to this, to avoid what I call "impression spoilers*.")
*When you hear something about a show/movie/book you haven't experienced yet and the thing you hear leaves you with an impression about the show/movie/book.
Have you watched the revival?
In a small paperback add: Montana, one young women with a complicated family past, one widower rancher with a six-year-old and an inability to ease up on himself, and Christmas. Stir until resolved. Enjoy.
I loved this romance novel. It was the perfect mixture of setting, substantive emotions, tenderness, protective dudery, sexiness, and Christmas to make me a happy camper. If you like this kind of thing, you will like this thing. A few too many typo-y issuess to make me completely happy (and one little snarl in the climactic scene with the heroine's family where I feel like there was a minor content editing hitch), but not enough to seriously negatively impact my enjoyment of the story. Will be reading more Nicole Helm.
This is definitely the closest to knocking my socks off a poetry collection has ever come. I don't think poetry will ever be my thing, will ever be something that speaks to me easily. But many of the poems here gave me chills. The connections she makes, the imagery she uses, they are just stunning. Recommended.
Great courses lectures about classic novels of the western canon, running from the 18th century through the twentieth. Weinstein does a good job in both his analysis and in his presentation of the material. Even when I wasn't necessarily interested in one of the texts he chose to discuss, it was mostly a pleasure to listen to him. (I'll tell ya what: he sounded like Richard Thomas playing John Boy Walton, and that was just fiiine with me.) Especially toward the end, I got a little impatient with his choices of material (a lot of this was just personal preference: I'd have much rather have heard him talk about Mrs Dalloway, for instance, than To the Lighthouse. But some of it was less so: many of his discussion of an individual text spanned two or even three lectures, and while I agree that some of them deserved that extended treatment, I might have argued for spending a little less time on Ulysses, say, in order to make room for Toni Morrison, maybe, or James Baldwin (or Tolkien). Of course, anyone putting together a series of lectures like this would make slightly different choices, and certainly none of Weinstein's were bad. I wish they had sometimes been a little less on the nose, though someone without my background might be better served with the on-the-nose-ity displayed here. In any case, a great course. Recommended.
Another in Cullinan's Minnesota Christmas series. Arthur has always thought he wasn't a relationship guy. Gabriel has given up looking for one. When the two of them are thrown together over fundraising for the library where Gabriel works, they surprise each other by being attracted to each other. And then we get the usual wonderful playing out of premise I've come to expect from Cullinan, complete with substantive feelings well explored, friendship as a cornerstone of men's lives, and a setting fully realized. Of the three Minnesota Christmas books I've read, I think this one is the best, in that it feels fully complete, with no threads dangling and no pieces feeling not quite fleshed out enough. But I think I like Winter Wonderland best.
I've been dipping into a reread of the Little House books for a while now (this time is the first, I'm quite sure, since childhood). They have a gentle lyricism to them that surprises me as an adult, and the pioneering details are a delight. It always strikes me now how very close to real, horrible disaster Laura and her family were so much of the time, and how careful the parents are to keep real knowledge of that horror from the children. In this one, for instance, spoiler the family lives the entire winter alone on the prairie with no one else around for hundreds of miles (and later just one other couple nearby). Even a minor medical issue or, say, a fire, would have meant death. And later, when homesteaders start showing up in the spring, the family boards them as there is nowhere else. Ma improvises a lock for the girls' bedroom and tells them not to come out in the morning until she calls for them. Because she doesn't want them around the "rough men." As an adult reader, I know that it isn't just hanging out with rough men that Ma is worried about it. Pa is also presented as the one who knows all (how does he know all that stuff?) and who can do no wrong. But reading between the lines, he's kind of cavalier and sometimes downright irresponsible with his family. Much of these books are chilling now, as well as fascinating and pleasant, overall.
Wouldn't it be nice if 2017 was a year of peace and goodwill.
A year where people set aside their religious and racial differences.
A year where intolerance is given short shrift.
A year where hatred is replaced by, at the very least, respect.
A year where those in need are not looked upon as a burden but as a blessing.
A year where the commonality of man and woman rises up against those who would seek to subvert and divide.
A year without bombs, or shootings, or beheadings, or rape, or abuse, or spite.
Festive Greetings and a few wishes from Malaysia!
Looking forward to your continued company in 2017.
Happy New Year, Laura
Long essay that started life as a speech. Okay only, though I've never not enjoyed anything Lahiri's written on some level. This just seemed like maybe there needed to be a little more to it? But that is often the way when you experience something outside of the medium it was meant for. *shrug* Worth the small amount of time it took to read.
89.) Gator Gumbo, Candace Fleming ***1/2
Amusing to a point, with fun Cajun-inspired text, and good illustrations, but gets really dark in the end, and I didn't much care for that.
90.) A Castle Full of Cats, Ruth Sanderson *****
I *loved* this one--story, text, pictures, all of it--about a prince who finds himself at odds with his wife's love of the dozens of cats she's invited into their castle.
91.) Finding Winnie, Lindsay Mattick ****
Enjoyable true story of a bear "adopted" by a soldier in WWII. The pictures here were the best part.
92.) Papa Gatto, Ruth Sanderson ****
*Gorgeous* illustrations; story traditional but only slightly interesting to me.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, this story is told through the main character's oral exam for entrance into an exclusive academy. We learn the history of her society as she explains her interpretation of a key event in their history to her examiners. Has a twist (which I figured mostly out beforehand), which I am a little "Hmmm" about, but the most interesting part about the story to me was the way Beckett got it on the page, the way he slowly revealed information about the society he'd created. Recommended.
Some of the best romance novels I've ever read were by Heidi Cullinan, and I have a particular love for the Minnesota Christmas series, of which this is a part. So I'm particularly saddened that I didn't love the socks off this book. But I didn't.
The premise is that Gabriel, who we know from the other three books, and who got his happy ending in book two with Arthur, realizes (with Arthur's help) that he's polyamorous and that he's falling in love with Dale. This was my first difficulty with the story. I've read lots of stories about polyamory, and it's not a thing that bugs me at all, but I had a terrible time getting over this feeling that this plot "overrode" the HEA of book two, even though Gabriel and Arthur are still together and happy. I told myself to just go with it, as it felt like a me problem rather than a book problem, but I never quite managed to. In addition to that nagging feeling, I felt like Gabriel and Arthur didn't quite read like themselves, like maybe Cullinan altered their characters a bit to tell this story. And sure, people change, and there's no reason why that can't be represented in a romance series. But it didn't feel earned, somehow. Furthermore (and this is my biggest complaint about the book), the idea here is that Gabriel is poly and Arthur is "open-minded," willing (and happy) to be in a relationship with a man who falls in love with multiple people and will have more than one relationship at once. But Arthur's not meant to be poly: he's supposed to be fond of Dale, to be coming to love him, but the primary love story here is meant to be between Gabriel and Dale, the *falling in love* is supposed to be between them. But, having finished the story, I have no idea what Dale and Gabriel see in each other, no idea what made them fall in love with each other, but I know *exactly* how Arthur and Dale have fallen in love. Their relationship was on the page; Gabriel and Dale's wasn't (much). I also never felt like I knew Dale in the way that I knew all of the other characters from this series of books. I always say that Cullinan's books should be just a little longer, but this one could have used another hundred pages, honestly. We had three pov characters, one of whom is completely new to us, and the book just didn't have room to handle all those povs fully along with all of the emotional arcs and plot points.
Whew. Okay, that's a lot of points against. Now for the points for. This book *feels* right, that is, it feels like a Minnesota Christmas book, and that erases a lot of my unhappiness with it otherwise all by itself. Because I love this series so much. Also, Cullinan absolutely nails (as usual) the male friendships among all the characters we've come to know over the course of the series. And finally, there are a few scenes in the book (two or three) that are full-on, shivers down the spine, read them three times in a row AMAZEPANTS. (They all involve Arthur; it kind of becomes his book in a lot of ways.) Cullinan writes the high emotion scenes (Gabriel discovering new things about himself; some dark, abuse-related stuff with Dale) like nobody's business. These save the book for me, honestly. I just wish the whole thing could have hung together better, or--maybe--that she had told *this* story with a different set of characters.
Therefore: round-up post!
(If you don't want to read all this, page down to the "TL;DR" for a quick summary and a link to my 2017 thread.)
*Total Books Completed: 94 (last year: 107;) yearly average since 2008: 74
*Total Number of Pages Read (from complete reads): 19,990 (last year: 25,446)
*Top Five First-Time Reads of 2016:
Symptoms of Being Human
A Castle Full of Cats
*Worst First-Time Reads of 2016 (chosen from completed reads only) :
Bared to You
The Girl Next Door
The Royal Nanny
*Longest Read of 2016:
*Books Purchased New: I'm not owning up to this number (last year: 228)
*of those, read: 18% (last year: 53, 23%)
*Shelf Reads: 16 (last year: 13)
*Library Books: 3 (last year: 11)
*Average Number of Pages in Books Completed: 213; minus audiobooks/books with no page count: 270 (last year: 268)
*Reads Broken Down By Category: (in parentheses = last year)
Fiction: 72, 77% (76, 71%)
Nonfiction: 22, 23% (31, 29%)
Male Writers: 37, 39% (47, 44%)
Female Writers: 58, 62% (77, 72% )
British Writers: 21, 21% (19, 18%)
American Writers: 70, 74% (80, 75%)
Canadian Writers: 2, 2% (0)
Writers =/= US, UK, Irish, Canadian: 3, 3% (2, 2% )
Diverse Content: 63--POC: 17, LGBTQ: 31, Disabilities: 4, Mental Health: 14 (48--POC: 15, LGBTQ: 27, Disabilities: 6 )
Diverse Authors: 31--POC: 10, LGBTQ: 21
In Translation: 2
Rereads: 10 (4)
Long (>500 pages): 3
Contemporary Literature: 10 (4)
Classics: 3 (3)
History/Biography: 3 (3)
Autobiography/Memoir: 5 (9)
Literary Criticism: 8 (10)
Young Adult: 15 (13)
Romance: 27 (27)
Mystery/Thriller/Ghost: 5 (9)
Science Fiction: 4 (11)
Fantasy: 7 (14)
Historical Fiction: 11 (6)
Graphic Novels (and comics): 11 (10)
*Accounting of Goals:
These weren't well defined goals, but I wanted to read kinds of things I hadn't been reading lately, with a psuedo focus on
*diverse authors: meh? About 1/3 of my total books read did I identify as "diverse" in some way. Better than a stick in the eye but not super great.
*trans: Epic fail. Zero.
*poc: Ten. Not great. At all.
*lesbian: Zero. (As far as I know.)
*poetry: 3. Decent. That's more poetry than I'd read in all the rest of the years since I finished the PhD combined.
*literary fiction from my shelves: Uh. Why was this a goal, exactly?
*long books: 3. I'll take it, I guess. The idea here was not to let my numbers for the year keep me from reading big tomes I wanted to read. A slight improvement, I guess?
I read a lot again (even though I missed last year's total by thirteen, this year's total is still sixteen books ahead of my pre-2015 highest number of books read in a year). I don't feel like it was a particularly great reading year, though. When I look back at my list, a lot of it is a bit meh. *shrug* Is anyone sad to see the back of this year? Looking forward to starting "fresh" tomorrow (so arbitrary, the changing of the year, and yet, somehow, so meaningful). I'm wondering if some of the mehness of 2016 as a reading year was the lack of goals, so I'm going to be a little bit more intentional this year. I'm going to carry on trying some poetry, see if I can't get those diversity totals higher, and (the big one) try not to buy so many books. I'm going on a modified book buying ban (shooting for two-three books purchased per month--that is *very* low for me), with exceptions allowed for book club purchases. Another way to look at this is to say, I'm looking to buy only books I mean to read *soon* (say, within a week or so) rather than amassing things I'm going to read sometime. Down with FOMO! And, thus, I'm going to try to read things I already have.
Onwards! Come say "hi" at my new thread here. There's naught there yet, but it's available for starring!