My latest reads

I’ve read a lot of books since my last update due to my New Year’s resolution to read 70 books in 2012. Have you made any reading or writing resolutions? I got my boyfriend to try for 70 books as well, so I’m pumped about getting this done! Here are the books I’ve read since my last update – you can click on the covers to view/buy them online:

1) Kindred by Octavia E. Butler – I finished this a while ago, and I gave it five stars on GoodReads. Butler’s writing was vivid and difficult to read at times because of the subject matter, but touching and awesome when it needed to be. I liked the relationship between Dana and her husband, which was romantic without being saccharine; it also showed the racism of the late 1970s that mixed-race couples experienced, which was then juxtaposed with the brutal racism of the 1800s. I also appreciated how Dana was portrayed as a strong woman but one who had conflicting emotions about the plantation owner. I thought that was true to her character, and added shades of gray to the novel when I wasn’t really expecting any. I adored Dana, and felt extremely connected to her, which is something I haven’t felt about a literary character in a long time.

2) The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing by Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards – I admit with no shame that I am not the best book reviewer or writer, so I was hoping this little book would help me. While there were some good tips throughout and a huge list of resources at the end, I found most of this guide to be extremely repetitious and poorly edited. Sections could have been combined to save from the verbosity, and countless run-on sentences made for a tedious reading experience. I would suggest looking elsewhere for a book about the art of reviewing.

3) On Agate Hill by Lee Smith – This wasn’t as good as I was hoping. When I read the summary on Amazon, it looked like something I would love; a fictitious collection of court records, letters, and diary entries from the days of the Reconstruction era, that follow the life of one woman from childhood to her death. Supposedly, these documents were found in the attic of the house she grew up in, and the main story is framed with the letters of the person who found them. It sounds like the book was written just for me, but I kept losing interest when I got past the first few chapters. Parts of the novel were well done and engaging, like the sections about her time as a child and when she was a teacher, and a bit at the end that I won’t spoil, but huge chunks of this novel could have been cut. I hate it when authors write about the same event from different character’s perspectives without changing the style of writing or even what the characters are thinking. That literary technique only works if you are showing how different their views are, but not if you are going to simply repeat their observations. Also, the technique of using letters/diary entries to document this woman’s life, as well as the inclusion of the framing narrative, seemed a bit unnecessary and clunky. I still don’t really get the point of the framing narrative or it’s connection/relevance to the protagonist’s journey, so I probably would have liked this better as a linear novel rather than a collection of documents.

4) The Ghost of Blackwood Hall by Carolyn Keene (or whoever actually wrote this one) – I don’t know what to say about this, because I truly love all Nancy Drew books. She’s a smart, kick-ass girl who solves mysteries and lives in a crime-ridden but otherwise perfect world. Her main gripe is that her dad is sometimes too awesome and her dog barks. I just love the old-timeyness of these, and how Nancy showcases bravery, intelligence, and strength when taking down the baddies. Certainly, sometimes it can be problematic, but it’s like 98% awesome.

5) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – Five stars. Almost flawless. Beautiful writing, humorous, haunting, exciting, and one of the greatest literary journeys anyone could take. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to read this. I know this is trite, but I didn’t want it to end. I wish someone would find a long-lost manuscript for a sequel, but that will never happen. I don’t want to say any more because so many others have had the same reaction to this book but have written more eloquently on their thoughts. Get your hands on this if you haven’t already! You can download a free Kindle app for your computer and download the book for free on Amazon.

6) Dust Tracks On a Road by Zora Neale Hurston – I was disappointed when I finished this, but my love of Hurston bumped this up from a 2-star rating to a 3. I believe part of the issue I had with this biography was that I just finished Great Expectations (which has a vastly different tone, style and narrative) and I couldn’t wrap my brain around this one for a while. It wasn’t until I was halfway through the book that I started to get into the flow of it. I appreciated Hurston’s thoughts about race and class, and I found her story to be interesting and important, but the writing itself didn’t have the same power for me as her most famous work, Their Eyes Were Watching God. You should definitely read this anyway, and pass it on to friends, because it would be such a tragedy if the world forgot her works again.

7) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – Doctor Who meets The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. So, basically, I enjoyed it immensely. The elements of time and space travel coupled with a fierce, brave young girl made this one of my new favorite YA/children’s novels. If I tell you what I truly appreciated about it, I would be giving away a huge spoiler, so I’ll refrain myself. Check this out from the library if you haven’t read it yet, especially if you enjoy sci-fi/fantasy and strong girl leads.

8) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – When I read the first chapter of this book, I had a sense that this was going to be my favorite book of all time, usurping that title from The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte. Oh dear, was I wrong. While the story itself is interesting, certainly enough to hold your attention, I absolutely cannot take the treatment of the female characters in this book. Objectified doesn’t even begin to cover it. I understand that the author doesn’t always hold the same ideas as his characters, but every! single! woman! in the novel is a sex object for the dude characters – and then there’s rape, murder, assault, etc. The author must have some huge contempt for women or something; there’s no grand message here that I’m missing – it’s just disheartening. It takes away most of any enjoyment I might have had from this book. I haven’t finished it completely (I have about 80 pages left), but I hope the end wraps up the random plots in the book because, if they aren’t, then it would really feel like a waste of a read. So upsetting, especially considering all the hype around this book.

What’s next on my reading list? I’m still deciding. I want to read a lady author, maybe Cristina Garcia’s Monkey Hunting. I have to see what I’m in the mood for after Shadow of the Wind.

Expect more frequent posts here, because I’m reading up a storm! It’s a huge relief to be done with school, and now I have all this free time to spend with my books. Yay.


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