#readthemargin Wrap-Up!

readthemargin(image credit: ladybookmad)

I didn’t talk about it much–I didn’t talk about anything much, this month–but last year’s #readwomen expanded this year into #readthemargin, a challenge to read books in December written by authors from marginalized groups: women, certainly, but also PoC, non-Christian, or LGBT+ authors.

Basically, things not by straight, white, cisgender men.

I could never give them up entirely, or even for a year as some of my friends have done in the past; many of my favorite authors fall into the (temporarily) forbidden category. But for a month? I’m in.

I pulled together over 20 books from my TBR piles and a few more filched from my husband’s college books that I’d been meaning to get to. I knew I wouldn’t come anywhere close to reading all of them (and I didn’t) but I wanted to have plenty to chose from.

So here’s the list of what I did read and why, let’s see how I did!

  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. (female, PoC)
  2. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily M. Danforth. (female, LGBT+)
  3. A Wedding in December, by Anita Shreve (female)
  4. The White Boy Shuffle, by Paul Beatty (PoC)
  5. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi (female, PoC, non-Christian)
  6. The Hundred Secret Senses, by Amy Tan (female, PoC)
  7. Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi (female, PoC)
  8. In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez (female, PoC)

Overall, it was a great experience–two of the books I read, I gave five stars, and a few four–and I definitely read a few things I’d been meaning to for a while, plus some more I might not have read if not for the challenge.

The books I picked out but didn’t get through are definitely on my to-read list for 2017.

I encourage everyone, challenge time or not, to diversify your reading! Stop reading the same old stories from the same old white dudes! (Or, rather, choose your white-dude authors with care, because there are still plenty of them out there worth your time. Just don’t ONLY read old white dudes, okay?)

This Week, I Read… (#52)

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#141 – The Hundred Secret Senses, by Amy Tan

  • Read: 12/11/16 – 12/18/16
  • Provenance: Owned (paperback)
  • Challenge: #readthemargin
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

Overall, actually, I didn’t like the book much–the three-star rating is an average, because I loved half the book and hated the other half.

Problem was, the two halves depended on each other, that was the point. Olivia’s internal narrative, which I hated, alternated with Kwan’s storytelling about her past life, which I loved.

Olivia came across to me as an intensely unlikable character, whose inability to form any kind of meaningful relationships with her family was entirely her own fault. She constantly pushed away any forms of affection shown to her, then whined that she was lonely. Granted, her husband was kind of an ass sometimes on his own merit, but Kwan? Kwan never did anything but try to love her, only the two of them were too different and Olivia couldn’t accept that form of love.

So I should have been impressed at the end when Olivia finally “understands,” right? Wrong. It’s a total about-face that wasn’t believable at all. Neither was her sudden reconciliation with her husband, complete with bonus miracle baby. Bleh.

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#142 – Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi

  • Read: 12/18/16 – 12/22/16
  • Provenance: Owned (hardcover)
  • Challenge: #readthemargin
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

I’ve never annotated a book before, but by the end of the first chapter, I was seized with the urge. I grabbed a green pen and set to work.

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I underlined sentences I liked, drew hearts beside character descriptions I enjoyed, and scribbled notes in the margins about meaningful passages.

Halfway through, I noticed I was hardly picking up the pen. I made myself look for things to comment on, but I wasn’t finding them nearly as frequently.

I wondered if I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, and I finished the book hardly making a mark in it.

By the time I got to the end, I realized the forest was boring.

The characters were superficial at best–all the weight of the narrative seemed thrown behind symbolism instead. The many and varied fairy-tale references peppered throughout began to wear thin as they had less and less to do with what was actually happening on the page.

And that “twist” in the final act made for an incredibly unsatisfying ending, with nothing resolved and a HUGE unexplored section of narrative to resolve. Ironically (for me) I had picked up on Boy referring to her sole parent only as “the rat catcher” and never as her father, but I thought it was because she was distancing herself from a childhood filled with abuse by denying the relationship. The real reason for that detail was not at all what I expected, but also basically . . . unnecessary? I don’t see what it served, in the end.


So this is where I realize, half a year later, that my weeks got misnumbered–I apparently skipped 25 as I was making these posts, because 52 should be next week! But it’s far, far too late to go back and fix them (oh god I don’t even want to think about editing that many post titles) and next week I’ll be doing a Best Books of the Year retrospective anyway. I haven’t decided if I should change the title to include the year and start over at #1, or just keep going next year with #53. Any thoughts?

This Week, I Read… (#51)

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#139 – The White Boy Shuffle, by Paul Beatty

  • Read: 12/6/16 – 12/10/16
  • Provenance: Owned (paperback)
  • Challenge: #readthemargin
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

This started weird, but I was into it. The narrative voice was interesting, and Gunnar as a character seemed interesting, too.

But the farther I got into the story, the more that began to wear on me. Events went from weird to bizarre to thoroughly outrageous, so somewhere in the middle of the book I realized I needed to be treating Gunnar like an unreliable narrator. The hyperbolic nature of his style escalated until I couldn’t take him seriously.

Sadly, that escalation left me feeling unimpressed overall. I saw shining glimpses of humor and social commentary that were both surprisingly sharp, but they were lost among a sea of grandiosity that Gunnar heaped on himself. He wasn’t real enough to be believable, which is a shame, because I probably would have loved a different version of the story where he was.

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#140 – Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi

  • Read: 12/10/16 – 12/11/16
  • Provenance: Owned (paperback)
  • Challenge: #readthemargin
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

This was stunning, in both the best and worst ways. Telling the story of a war through childhood, or childhood through war–both happen here.

The incredibly bold, simple art style suited the story, laying out in black and white both the beautiful and horrible things about the time and her experiences in it.

I’m not overly familiar with the political history of the Middle East in any given time period, but Satrapi includes enough basic background when it’s relevant to put each of her chapter-anecdotes into context.

I need to get my hands on the second volume–too bad my used-book shopping turned up this instead of the complete edition!

This Week, I Read… (#50)

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#136 – Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

  • Read: 11/30/16 – 12/3/16
  • Provenance: Owned (paperback)
  • Challenge: #readthemargin
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

This book amazed me.

Initially I was put off by the heavy phoneticized dialect of the characters–I definitely see why modern writing advice shuns that–but once I picked up the knack of it, which was basically reading it in my head slowly, as if I were reading it aloud, I sank right in and it ceased to cause me problems.

I don’t tend to read a lot of “voyage of self-discovery” works (nope, not even Eat, Pray, Love) so this was a different experience for me. But following Janie, seeking herself through three men and a hurricane, was gripping in a way I didn’t expect, going into it.

On top of that, so much of what I see marginalized groups of all types asking for are stories for them that aren’t just The Struggle. (Or, alternately, Coming Out, a subset of The Struggle.) Here’s one that’s decades old. This book is about black people, a black woman, and it’s not about racism. (There are hardly any white people in the entire story to struggle against.) It’s all about Janie and her life, and according to this edition’s introduction, Hurston was actually criticized by some of her contemporaries for writing a story outside of the accepted black narratives of the time.

This isn’t to say that we don’t need more stories about non-white, non-straight, non-Christian people just being themselves and having stories that don’t relate directly to their oppression, because WE ABSOLUTELY DO. But without knowing that’s what this was going to be (I only knew it was a classic and I should read it, nothing more) I found myself surprised and utterly charmed.

Read this book, everybody. I’m serious.

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#137 – The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily M. Danforth

  • Read: 12/3/16 – 12/5/16
  • Provenance: Library (hardcover)
  • Challenge: #readthemargin
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

It was a pleasant surprise to me that this story was set in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I’m only three years younger than the titular Cameron would be, and I’m even from the Midwest (though a different chunk of it, not the Plains States) so most of the first half of this book charmed me with childhood nostalgia, summer swimming and snow cones and the music and talking late at night on the phone. I laughed out loud at the mention of Presidential Fitness Exams in gym class–I’d forgotten about those! (I never passed because I couldn’t do the minimum number of pull-ups. Noodly arms, that’s me.)

The second half of the book, not so charming. But it’s not supposed to be. From there, my empathy for Cameron stopped being about the similarities of our childhoods, and started being about feeling like an outsider, an impostor. Though I didn’t go through confusion about my sexual orientation as she did, I was always uncomfortable at church, as she describes–I never felt any connection to God there or elsewhere, I always felt like I was only going through the motions. Though the reasons behind it were different, Cameron’s struggle with the identity imposed on her by the church echoed my feelings about the rigid limitations during my experience with the Christian faith.

To read about her living through a school-based form of conversion therapy? They’re teaching me to hate myself, she tells an investigator. It was so painful. I felt sick to my stomach.

But that’s exactly what we need to be reading, right now, with people coming into power who seem to think conversion therapy is acceptable.

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#138 – A Wedding in December, by Anita Shreve

Am I just too young for Shreve’s novels? Because this is the third one I’ve tried (I picked up all three last year at the same sale) and I just can’t help feeling that while they’re obviously aimed at adult women (as opposed to YA) I’m still not adult enough for them.

This train wreck of a novel opens with an entire chapter of two reunited college friends, now in their forties or fifties (I didn’t do the math based on what little hard evidence was given,) talking about old time/catching up while waiting for other guests to arrive for a quickie wedding between two other old college friends.

Way to bore me straight out of the gate. Two characters establishing themselves entirely by giving each other their own backstories. Snoresville. It’s just as boring as listening to two people you don’t know at any social gathering discussing their kids or exes or crippling bunions. If you don’t know them personally, you have no context, and it’s difficult to care. The whole thing feels not like nostalgia, but a sort of nostalgia-fantasy–wouldn’t it be so cool someday to get together with all my old buddies in a little B&B in Vermont?

Okay, yeah, with my college friends it might, but we’d be playing video games and board games and telling each other jokes instead of reminiscing over a glass of wine and snowy scenery. Definite upside to hanging with the geek crowd.

So then we switch to a different character, one whom the first two mentioned. And she spends half her chapters writing (and we read the story she’s penning, which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with anything but is surprisingly interesting, given that) and the other half pining for the man she’s having an affair with. (He’s married, she’s the mistress.)

MOST READERS DON’T LIKE OR SYMPATHIZE WITH CHEATERS. Myself included. It’s one of the most-repeated bits of advice for writing romance. Use cheating with caution.

So I’m supposed to care about this random cheater? No, thanks.

At 352 pages, I reached page 100, more than a quarter of the way through, and the story seemed utterly directionless. I was more than happy to drop this one, and now that I’ve exhausted my Shreve collection, you can be sure I won’t be picking up any more.

This Week, I Read… (#49)

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#132 – Light on Snow, by Anita Shreve

  • Read: 11/23/16 – 11/25/16
  • Provenance: Owned (paperback)
  • Challenge: Mount TBR Challenge 2016 (10/12)
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

Billed as a coming-of-age story, I expected the characters, especially the young narrator, to have more emotional impact than they did. Oh, wait, did I say “young” narrator? Because a few chapters in, we find out she’s thirty, narrating the story that happened to her at twelve.

I didn’t balk at that, expecting that something important would be happening later in the story at age 30 as well–only it didn’t. There was no point at all to having the narrator character aged up, especially as the character voice was so astoundingly young.

(I would actually praise Shreve for that, because writing a young character well is not an easy feat. But since she’s not supposed to sound twelve, it’s sort of a problem.)

Just so I don’t harp on the age thing forever, it’s by no means my only complaint. Everyone in the story seems sodden as snow-wet cardboard boxes, and just as thin. Instead of feeling grief or pity or relief for the young mother in the story and her plight, I just felt . . . annoyed. Annoyed that I didn’t feel anything deeper. For all the rich themes about family and isolation the story could have explored, everything here was presented as straight-up fact, as easily accessible as Googling “solitude.” There was no subtlety.

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#133 – Beyond Jealousy, by Kit Rocha

  • Read: 11/25/16 – 11/26/16
  • Provenance: Owned (ebook)
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

What’s that, Elena? You’re giving a romance five stars? You never do that!

It’s true, as much as I love the genre, I’m so familiar with it that it becomes easy to see the inherent patterns and common flaws. I can enjoy most romances, excepting the most poorly written, but I rarely consider them fantastic.

THIS BOOK IS AMAZING AND I COMPLETELY DID NOT EXPECT THE JUMP IN QUALITY OVER PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE SERIES.

The epic smashup between Cruz, Ace, and Rachel has been coming for a while now, spaced out as background interaction through the first books. And it paid off.

I haven’t read a lot of menage stories–they’re not something I actively seek out, but they pop up from time to time in other series I’ve read. Keeping in mind my shiny newness to the subgenre, this is BY FAR the best of the lot I’ve ever seen.

There are actual, non-sexual relationships between all three pairings of these three people before they fall into a pile in the same bed. They know each other, they’ve worked together (if anything in Sector Four is “work” the way we think of it, at least) and they’ve had time to really spin up both their hopes and their fears about making the complex relationship work.

It’s not two of them trying to rope in a third. It’s not one of them up for a wild time and making an impulsive (ie, bad) decision.

IT’S THREE PEOPLE WHO ALL ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT BOTH OF THEIR PARTNERS.

How sad is it that I’ve never actually read that before?

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#134 – Daughter of Elysium, by Joan Slonczewski

  • Read: 11/26/16 – 11/29/16
  • Provenance: Owned (paperback)
  • Challenge: Mount TBR Challenge 2016 (11/12)
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

DNF @ page 100. I was in the mood for some hard sci-fi, and this tale riffing on immortality, fertility, and genetic engineering seemed like just the thing.

Until every tenth word was “train” or “trainsweep.”

I get it. Worldbuilding is important to sci-fi. But there is such a thing as too much of it. We got the description of what the resident alien species wears, and it includes long trains of fabric, the length corresponding to how old they are. And they get sooooo long that there are specialized robots called trainsweeps that manage the fabric, carrying it and folding it up to get into transports and such. Cool detail that speaks to both the wealth and status accrued with age in their society.

But don’t remind me about it three to five times a page. Don’t make every single character a floating mouth that talks with a train behind them to emote for them. Don’t bore me to tears by describing every petty official’s garments at length.

I JUST DON’T CARE THAT MUCH.

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#135 – Beyond Solitude, by Kit Rocha

  • Read: 11/29/16 – 11/30/16
  • Provenance: Owned (ebook)
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

A much better offering than the previous Beyond novella, with a scope of story more appropriate to the length of the work. Derek and Mia are a much more approachable couple than Noah and Emma, and while both are incredibly minor characters elsewhere in the series, that actually helps here–we get to see how the O’Kane empire works on the sidelines, up close and personal, through their jobs.

And we get to see a firsthand account of how someone gets absorbed into their family under slightly less dire circumstances than earlier major characters. It’s downright charming, at times, how tough Mia is in what she’s willing to put up with to follow her heart–and how tough it is for Derek to watch her struggle, and to struggle with his own urges to be kind to her when he doesn’t have much practice at it.

He’s not replacing Cruz in my heart anytime soon (le sigh) but Derek is a great example of gruff-with-a-heart-of-gold. Definitely worth picking up, even if it’s not as key to the major story line as the novels.

This Week, I Read… (#45)

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#114 + #115 – Perelandra and That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis

  • Read: 10/23/16 – 10/28/16; 10/28/16 – 10/29/16
  • Provenance: Owned (hardcover)
  • Challenge: Mount TBR Challenge 2016 (4/12 and 5/12)
  • Rating: 1 star to both

Looking over my oldest unread books, I realized I’d read the first book of the trilogy in 2015 and never gone back for the others. Mount TBR seemed like as good a time as any to complete an unfinished series, so I dove in, remembering the strange-but-pleasant time I had with Out of the Silent Planet. (Classic sci-fi has a vibe I love, back when the rules weren’t so well-established and crazy things happen, narratively speaking.)

First, Perelandra. It began with a chapter with a new character as first-person narrator, which was jarring, but soon enough I saw why–he was to act as Ransom’s trip coordinator, basically, setting up an expectation of narrative framework. He saw Ransom off on his trip to space and would be there when he returned at the end of the book. Disappointment #1: Said expectation was not met. Ransom’s return was chronicled long before the end of the book, and the last thing that actually happened was him climbing into his “ship” and leaving the planet–no glorious homecoming to wrap things up.

Okay, irritating, but on to the much bigger issue, and it’s a whopper.

Halfway through the book, it stops being science fiction and becomes heavy-handed Bible allegory. Now, wait, I hear you say. C.S. Lewis hated allegory, in fact he decried it. Yes, he did, so much so that Perelandra has a big line of text at the beginning stating that it isn’t allegory. Too bad it really looks like it!

But then, I guess it’s not allegory, not really, not if it can’t even bother to disguise the original story as something else. We the reader had to figure out Aslan was a Jesus-analogue in The Chronicles of Narnia; Lewis doesn’t trust the reader that much in Perelandra, starting with a character who we suspect is an Eve-analogue in “Paradise”…then smacking us in the face with it by having Ransom philosophize extensively on every single parallel between his situation and the book of Genesis.

Most of the latter half of the book is tedious and seemingly endless religious discussion between the Venus!Eve, Ransom, and Devil!Weston. It’s terrible. Especially when Devil!Weston spends several pages trying to coax Venus!Eve into replicating The Fall with arguments that look, to me here in the 21st century, a lot like modern feminism. Putting progressive ideals about women’s equality in the mouth of the Devil? You’re not winning many points with me for that, Lewis. I’m not impressed.

Anyway, despite hating it pretty thoroughly as soon as Devil!Weston showed up to spoil literally everything, I did finish it, because I hoped That Hideous Strength would be better.

(sigh)

It wasn’t. It was worse.

Due diligence, I plunged on to page 100 before giving up. But the opening of this book was even more jarring than Perelandra. We’re back on Earth being introduced (third-person) to a college don and his wife. Neither of them are very interesting at first, and I have no idea how they’re related to the ongoing Ransom-narrative of the first two books, so I’m bored already. Then in the middle of the first chapter, suddenly there’s a scene with an “I” narrator, and I have no clue who it’s meant to be–is it Lewis himself? Is it the same narrator character from Perelandra who related Ransom’s adventures to us secondhand? Is it some character I would have met later if I could have stomached reading more? I will likely never know, as he disappeared, never to resurface again (before page 100.)

The college don and his wife continue to be uninteresting, and there’s an awful lot of cigar-smoking college-don back-room politicking that was probably easy and natural for Lewis to write, given his time period and occupation, but pretty far removed from the experiences of my life, so I could have used more explanation of what was going on.

Oh, and then the college has a little plot of woods THAT JUST HAPPENS TO BE WHERE MERLIN IS SUPPOSEDLY BURIED.

Wait, Merlin? We’re going Arthurian mythos? What the hell does that have to with Super Religion Space War from Perelandra?

From reading reviews on Goodreads after the fact, I have discovered that Ransom eventually shows up, tying this book to its predecessors and Super Religion Space War, but damn me if I had the patience to wait for him. It was just so dull. Life’s too short for dull books.

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#116 – Asking For It, by Lilah Pace

  • Read: 10/29/16 – 10/30/16
  • Provenance: Library (paperback)
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

Let’s get this out of the way: this romance is about two people exploring their mutual rape fantasies. Pretty dark stuff compared to most of my romantic reads, but I added this to my TBR on the strength of a recommendation from Jenny Trout, who wrote (under the pseudonym Abigail Barnette) one of my earliest-read and most favorite erotic romance series, The Boss.

Yes, the fantasies are dark, and not for everyone, but Pace treats both the characters and the sensitive nature of the subject with grace and respect. I was impressed by a lot in this book–the pacing, Vivienne’s distinctive voice as narrator, the gradual deepening of her relationship with Jonah despite best efforts on both their parts to keep things compartmentalized.

I don’t even have a quibble with the cliffhanger, and those are generally turn-offs for me; either they feel like slapdash attempts to get me to spend more money, or they’re just poorly written, like clickbait article titles writ large. But this one feels right. It feels like the only way the story could end, for now. And I do, in fact, want to read the next book and find out what happens.

(I also wish I could find out who “Lilah Pace” is a pseudonym for, because I want to read the author’s less-dark stuff too. The writing style was incredibly smooth–whoever it is, she’s clearly an accomplished storyteller.)

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#117 – Succubus Dreams, by Richelle Mead

  • Read: 10/30/16 – 10/31/16
  • Provenance: Owned (paperback)
  • Challenge: Mount TBR Challenge 2016 (6/12)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

I rarely (never?) jump into series in the middle, but secondhand-book shopping doesn’t always turn up first titles. I got this more to try out Mead’s general style than because I wanted more paranormal romance–she’s plastered all over Booklr because of her popular YA titles, and I even had Soundless in my TBR already when I found this. I was curious.

So, with the fact in mind that I missed two books’ worth of plot, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. As a series progresses, especially one with a setting requiring a lot of explanation, it’s get bogged down in the repetition of worldbuilding details. I was seeing this stuff for the first time, but I was impressed with how seamlessly the tidbits blended into the narrative, serving more as gentle reminders of how things work than “Hey, hey, hey, I don’t trust my readers to remember this so I have to say it all the time.”

I had a little trouble connecting with the side characters (again, I did miss two books) but no trouble at all diving into the narrator’s brain. Georgina’s sassy sarcasm and genuine emotional/existential angst were plenty compelling, and the references to past events in her life served to make me curious about the books I skipped, rather than annoyed that I didn’t understand the backstory.

Subtlety is a powerful tool, and one I wish more authors bothered to use.

So I’m definitely on board the Read More Mead train, though vampire fiction hasn’t been my thing so far, so that nixes a fair bit of her back catalog. I’ll try to get my hands on the rest of this series (my local library system isn’t entirely forthcoming, I might have to dig into the state-wide interlibrary loan), but I actually think book #4 might be in the book sale room at my local branch, I hadn’t nabbed it already because I hadn’t read this one yet…cross your fingers for me that it’s still there when I go back next!

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#118 – Beyond Denial, by Kit Rocha

  • Read: 10/31/16
  • Provenance: Free online
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

Short and HOT, as opposed to short and sweet, Beyond Denial is a deleted scene from Beyond Control. While it really is just the one scene, I’m glad Goodreads informed me of its existence, because it was absolutely worth the ten minutes, and it gave me extra insight into two characters I’ve been curious about, and whom I happen to know from browsing blurbs both have their own books later in the series. I love authors who have little shorts like these for their series!

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#119 – The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand, by Jim Harrison

  • Read: 10/31/16 – 11/2/16
  • Provenance: Owned (paperback)
  • Rating: 3 stars

A collection of Harrison’s articles on food, drinking, hunting, travel, and nature–sounds right up my alley, right? (Except for the hunting part.)

I began this book absolutely enthralled by Harrison’s wry tone and remarkable ability to turn a phrase, but about halfway through, I realized that, as good as the quality of the writing was, there wasn’t much difference between one article and the next–they began to blend together.

That being said, I still enjoyed it as a sort of ersatz food memoir (my fifth of the year? sixth? I’ve lost count.)

This Week, I Read… (#44)

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#111 – The Swan Thieves, by Elizabeth Kostova

  • Read: 10/17/16 – 10/21/16
  • Provenance: Owned (hardcover)
  • Challenge: Mount TBR Challenge 2016 (2/12)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

I found this an enjoyable, if sometimes slow and clunky, read. I’ve never been much of a mystery fan, though this mystery was so far from a typical murder whodunit that it never got under my skin in the same way. In fact, after spending long enough with the characters, I’d even forgotten what the original mysterious element was (Robert’s mental illness, which came before the question of the painted woman’s identity.)

Not sure that’s a compliment, but there you have it.

What fascinated me most about this book was the lyrical and loving way art and artworks were described. I’m currently working on improving my drawing skills (thanks to Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain) and I did love the oil painting course I took back in college, so a lot of what Kostova has to say about art and artists struck me–a case of reading the right book at the right time, I guess.

That being said, I’m purging this from my collection. I did enjoy reading it, but I don’t think it’s going to improve the second time around, and some parts of the ending didn’t resolve to my satisfaction. Maybe the next person to pick it up secondhand will like it better.

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#112 – Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

  • Read: 10/21/16 – 10/22/16
  • Provenance: Library (paperback)
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

What the hell did I just read? Thank god it’s short, because I felt like I was inside someone’s fever dream.

The prose was incredibly choppy, often with several “scenes” on a page, broken up by the triple-asterisk markers. I understand that the time-hopping is a feature, not a bug, but it created distance from the characters, only getting them in disconnected bits and pieces.

Oh, but the metaphor, I hear the devotees say. Yes, it’s a book that’s vehemently anti-war, that tackles themes of difficult homecoming, PTSD and dissociation. I get it. I even agree with it, I’m not particularly pro-war myself.

But understanding the message doesn’t mean the way it’s conveyed made for an enjoyable read.

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#113 – The Abyssinian Proof, by Jenny White

  • Read: 10/22/16 – 10/23/16
  • Provenance: Owned (hardcover)
  • Challenge: Mount TBR Challenge 2016 (3/12)
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

DNF @page 100. I gave it an honest try, but honestly, I was bored.

Fortunately DNFs are addressed in the rules of the challenge; because Mount TBR is all about cleaning house, unfinished books count if they meet the participant’s own personal criteria for having attempted to read the book.

I could have put this down in the second chapter, though. The first chapter was basically a historical prologue, and how does chapter two open? With the main character waking up. On the second page of the chapter, he manages to find himself in front of a mirror so the reader can find out what he looks like.

Glad to see the tropes YA is often derided for are alive and well in other genres.