This Week, I Read… (#29)

67 - Contact

#67 – Contact, by Carl Sagan

  • Read: 7/3/16 – 7/9/16
  • Provenance: Owned (hardcover)
  • Challenge: BookRiot Read Harder 2016
  • Task: A book published the decade you were born
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

The book that I expected to be a grand adventure of science turned out to be a much more deeply religious book than I could possibly have expected.

After the mess that was the last book on religion I read, it was a pleasant surprise.

This entirely fictional work presented a better argument for the coexistence of religion and science than anything else I have ever read, and I found the end deeply moving.

That being said, it’s awfully slow-paced at times, with little action to keep things lively–it’s an incredibly cerebral work. But, concerned as it is with the human sense of wonder and awe, my favorite parts were the sudden left turns away from the main narrative, into practiced observational science: the rabbits along the highway being the most-referenced example, though there were many.

I have a feeling this might get upgraded to a 5-star rating once I reread it. A lot of the used books I’ve picked up this year have been re-donated when I’m done with them, but this one, I’m keeping.

68 - Voyager

#68 – Voyager, by Diana Gabaldon

I thought Contact would last me through my whole mini-vacation; I was wrong. For space reasons I neglected to bring any of the rest of my physical TBR, so I took the plunge back into the Outlander series.

I enjoyed parts of it, because Jamie and Claire have such a tumultuous romance it’s impossible for me not to want to see them reunited; but as usual, the wordiness of the rest of it meant I ended up skimming some to make things move along faster. Especially with all the high-seas adventure in the latter half of the story, this novel reminded me more of a modern action-adventure movie with some romance shoehorned it, than it did historical fiction. To that end, I would have liked to see the writing tightened up, because action gets boring when it’s dragged on too long.

My criticisms aside, it wasn’t bad enough to make me give up on the series. I don’t know when I’ll get to book #4, but it’s there, waiting for me in the ebook bundle I got last year.

69 - Trees

#69 – Trees, Vol. 1: In Shadow, by Warren Ellis (author) and Jason Howard (illustrator)

  • Read: 7/12/16 – 7/13/16
  • Provenance: Library (ebook via Hoopla)
  • Challenge: BookRiot Read Harder 2016
  • Task: A non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years (2015)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

I’m not even sure how to rate this, exactly. I enjoyed it; the premise was interesting; the art was gorgeous.

But, due to the nature of comics, I feel like I’ve watched the first ten minutes of a movie. The characters and locations are introduced, we just start to get our feet under us, then BOOM! It’s the inciting incident.

And that’s where Volume 1 ends.

I’m more than a little disturbed by one of the storylines, because I can’t tell (yet) if a particular character’s death is merely for shock value, or is actually going to affect future plot; sadly, it falls under Bury Your Gays. Even though I’d hardly had time to get to know him, I was disappointed by his death, though it remains to be seen if there’s going to be healthy LGBT representation later to balance it out some.

Let’s put it this way: If I can get the next volume through the library, I’d like to keep reading and find out where this is going, but I wouldn’t pay for the privilege.

70 - The Sunlit Night

#70 – The Sunlit Night, by Rebecca Dinerstein

  • Read: 7/13/16 – 7/14/16
  • Provenance: Owned (hardcover)
  • Challenge: ReadsTheBooks 2016 Reading Challenge; also #readwomensummer
  • Task: Read a book by a first-time author
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

Every time I read a book under the “literary fiction” umbrella, I walk away dissatisfied. Does the term “literary” mean that characters don’t need personalities? That they can take random actions that offer little meaning or have little consequence?

The structure is a stylistic departure from the norm; the story is told through dual POVs, but one (Frances) is in first person, while the other (Yasha) is in third. I struggled to find a reason for this. The reader sees plenty inside Yasha’s head during his sections–there’s no obvious need not to have it in first person as well. And Frances could easily have third-person perspective instead, because having the supposed extra insight into her character doesn’t accomplish much.

I read the whole thing, cover to cover, and if you asked me, I wouldn’t be able to describe Frances. Her physical traits aren’t mentioned often (at least she never does the Describe Yourself Looking Into a Mirror), and her major personality trait is…I don’t know, impulsive decision-making?

At least I can say a few things about Yasha. He’s tall and burly and young and sex-obsessed. That last one is realistic–he’s seventeen, and many a seventeen-year-old (male or female!) is sex-obsessed. But I didn’t care for the way Dinerstein treats sex in the narrative. It’s almost always mentioned in a context of embarrassment, or at least when it should be embarrassing–I will read steamy love scenes in a romance novel with relish, but I don’t want to read a teenage boy having curious/inappropriate sexual wonderings about his mother. Not to the point where I’d start calling him Oedipus, but he could only remark on his mother’s body so many times before I began to wonder if he was attracted to her, and ewwww. I was embarrassed for him.

I’m not fond of humor based on secondhand embarrassment (which is why I basically never watch any modern comedy movies anymore), and apparently I don’t like “literary” fiction based on it, either.

What I do like, physically, is the size of this book. I know that’s an odd thing to say, but it’s slightly larger than most of my other hardcovers. Since it’s stuffed with color words and artistic terms–Frances is an artist, supposedly, though the importance of that barely survives into the second half of the book–I think it will make a good art journal. I’m almost halfway through altering (destroying?) The Girl on the Train, so it won’t be long before I need another one…


Anything interesting you read this week that you want to recommend?

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