Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Books Read in September

51. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

I bought this for my boyfriend and we read most of it together. We're both fans of Felicia Day, The Guild, Geek & Sundry etc. I especially enjoyed the chapters on her childhood, which I knew nothing about. I won't spoil it since I think it's the most entertaining part of the book. Day writes exactly how she talks and her writing is interspersed with photos and Internet memes, so if you do get the audiobook, I'd recommend getting the book as well. She also goes behind-the-scenes into her life events leading up to The Guild and in-depth about the making of The Guild. I didn't feel like I needed that, because I think the show itself makes it pretty clear she's a recovering WoW addict, but if you're interested, everything you could want to know is there. A fun celebrity memoir, memorable for Day's unique voice.

52. The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts

I picked this up on a trip to Boston, at a tiny used bookstore in Allston called Bookistan. The owner is a very chatty fellow who turned out to have family ties to my undergraduate school's president. The book itself has ties in Boston because it was discovered and edited by none other than Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. I'm so glad I picked it up because it's both a very engaging novel and a remarkable piece of history in itself. The Bondwoman's Narrative is the only known existing novel written by an African American slave. As far as historians have been able to determine, the novel is a fictionalized account of Crafts' own enslavement and escape. The novel is a 19th century drama made more piquant because it is written by a slave who must have had or observed at least some of the stories described in the book. She also had a very active imagination, probably inspired by books like Jane Eyre, which was among the books in her probable masters' library that she would have had access to. Highly recommended.

53. Oswald: Return of the King by Edoardo Albert

Edoardo Albert's tale of Oswald reads like straightforward history but told in an engaging fictional narrative. As far as I can tell, and confirmed by Albert's historical note at the back, the story is extremely accurate to the history of the actual Oswald, king of Bernicia and Deira during Britain's Middle Ages. Of course, little enough is known about Oswald and so Albert believably fills in the gaps. The culture he creates feels authentic and the characters are believably of their times but also relatable. Albert writes in clear modern English, but he also uses key terms from the Middle English that Oswald and his contemporaries would have spoken. The words, such as "witan" for a group of nobles that select a king, or "scop" for a king's singer and storyteller are crucial to the story and easily understood through context, but there is also a helpful glossary and pronunciation guide in the beginning. I highly recommend Oswald: Return of the King to fans of British history, but expect a lot of battle narrative and not as much interior drama as we'd expect from a modern novel. This is really history in a fictional guise.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR

So, I had this all set to go and then I guess never officially scheduled it for last Tuesday...

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!

Already time for Fall TBR--the biggest season of the book year!

1. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente

2. Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder

3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

4. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

5. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip Zaleski

6. The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli

7. After Alice by Gregory Maguire

8. Marvel and a Wonder by Joe Meno

9. Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

10. The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Books Read in August

47. Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen is a genius with voice. Her style and tone captured me so much that I never saw the obvious twist coming (I also didn't read the back cover). For fans of Anna Quindlen or just brilliant, funny writing, give this a try.

48. Brave New Girls, edited by Mary Fan and Paige Daniels

I picked this up at Shore Leave Con because I wanted to support women engineers (proceeds go to the Society of Women Engineers), but these stories are good. Even though it's an anthology with stories from different writers, there's not a single story I skipped (rare for me). Each story features a young female heroine kicking butt in a brainy way. Most of the stories are set in dystopias; all take place in the near or far future, mostly not on Earth. I got to meet some of the authors and one of the editors, Mary Fan, at Shore Leave Con when I attended their panel. Highly, highly recommended to any science fiction fan, but definitely pick up a copy for the teenage girl in your life.

49. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, trans. Ann Goldstein

This was my chosen read for Women in Translation (WIT) Month in August. I'll admit I hopped on the bandwagon, but I still find it funny that BookRiot has a picture of this book under the article "Does Popular Reading Live Up to the Hype?". Yes, Ferrante is hyped in certain bookish circles including mine, but no one's heard of Ferrante the way they've heard of say, The Hunger Games or Harry Potter. Anything with a movie or TV show and quite a lot of other books are much higher on the name recognition list. I digress.

So, I jumped on this very specific bandwagon and was not disappointed. There's something about the quality that's so easy to read, and I think the setting and typeface helped too. I really liked it. Anyway, the book is about Elena Greco growing up in a poor neighborhood in Naples and her relationship with Lila, the brilliant friend of the title. It's so interesting to get a perspective on what it was like to grow up in that specific time and place (mid twentieth century Naples). Unlike some other readers, I did not really relate to the experience much, but rather appreciated it more as an outsider. I definitely plan to read the other three books in the series. Highly recommended.

50. The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

I took all the Patrick Rothfuss audiobooks out of the library and listened to them in order for several weeks. This resulted in lovely commutes and high library fines. Listening to The Wise Man's Fear directly after The Name of the Wind (which I read a few years ago), I picked up on a lot of Rothfuss' linguistic idiosyncracies I might not otherwise have noticed. Also, the books seem to beg to be read aloud. There is so much lyricism in them, despite the plainness of the prose (or because of it?). There is much repetition, but it's deliberate, effective repetition of phrases about certain characters. What I think might be less intentional are the above-mentioned idiosyncracies: Kvothe, the main character and narrator for most of both books, repeatedly remarks, "You would think that I would_________________, but the simple truth is ____________________." It gets a bit annoying, I'll be honest. But Kvothe is also such a particular character with such particular faults of narcissism and hero-complex-ism and such particular talents of memory and near-instant acquiring of book-learning skills that the phrase seems right for him. I suspect I am one of the few Kingkiller chronicle fans who actually waited years in hopes of reading the second and third books in succession (the third is still not out), but I would recommend the series to any fan of fantasy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Top Ten Characters I Just Didn't Click With

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! Glad this is a freebie because I was sad I missed this awesome topic just a couple weeks ago.

Characters can really make or break a story for me--though there are a few rare occasions where I like a book because I don't like a character.

1. Lee Fiora from Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Lee's passive-aggressive personality turns me off so much--but I couldn't stop watching her sabotage herself.

2. Blue from Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Blue was a big reason I didn't like the book as much as I wanted to. I just didn't connect with her. Her emotions were not convincing to me and it made the whole book droop.

3. Esther from The Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein

Esther's passive, insipid attitude is the reason I did not like this book at all.

4. Antigone from Antigone by Sophocles

Ok, I get where Antigone is coming from, but the fact that she was willing to sacrifice her sister's life (not just her own) to bury her brother was not ok.

5. Odysseus from The Odyssey by Homer

I do not understand why anyone likes Odysseus. He is a liar, cheater, and murderer. He sleeps with other women without a second thought, but kills women who do the same. Horrible hypocrite, to say nothing of how callously he treated his men's lives.

6. Aeneas from the Aeneid by Virgil

And while we're on the classics, I'm sorry, but I just can't forgive him for leaving Dido.

7. Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I've written about this before, at length, but Darcy just doesn't reform enough for me and I don't get what's so attractive about him. I JUST DON'T GET IT.

8. Arya from A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin

I know I'm in the minority, but I don't particularly like Arya. I can respect her in some ways, but I don't like her bloodthirstiness or how creepy she keeps getting.

9. Pamela from Pamela by Samuel Richardson

I've also written about this before, but the fact that Pamela happily agrees to marry a man who tried really hard to rape her says it all about the depth of my lack of relation to her.

10. Also, I'd write Macbeth, but I'm pretty sure nobody clicks with Macbeth (right?).