Miriam tries to decrease her TBR pile
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I'm really glad to be in this great group again this year.
For 2017, my goal is twofold: I want to read more than 115 books, and I want to buy less and read more off my gigantic TBR pile. To reward myself for good behaviour, I will mark all the books from my TBR pile in this list once I complete them - if some of them aren't marked, I have been weak and let myself be seduced by the siren call of the bookstore next to my uni.
Additionally, I'm trying to complete popsugar's 2017 challenge, as a way to broaden my literary horizons.
So far I've read two short books:
1. Indexing, Seanan McGuire
This was a really clever take on fairy tales in the modern world, and I enjoyed it. The modern manifestations of the well-known stories were well-thought-out and occasionally surprising. I also liked the characters and their diverse struggles with the narrative. I look forward to reading more.
2. Reflections, Seanan McGuire
Still a really cool concept. Also, I'd argue, a better overall plot, and the characters are well fleshed out. But sometimes, especially towards the ending, the prose felt really self-conscious, like the author was concentrating on producing quotable, "cool" and sweeping sentences more than she was on clarity and appropriateness for the subject matter. I don't know, it really threw my suspension of disbelief, and there are only so many ways one can write "Snow White is waaay more deep than you thought, blood on the snow, ice and apples" before it gets more ridiculous than poetic.
Already I'm off to a bad start, reading two books I didn't know existed before christmas. For christmas, I got an ebook, and I get to share my dad's ebook collection. Since our tastes are pretty similar, that's a huge bonus, and I started by reading these two books that he had by an author I love, but that I hadn't known about. Og well, they were fun, maybe something that will fulfill my criteria next.
I am part of the group.
I love being part of the group.
I love the friendships bestowed upon my by dint of my membership of this wonderful fellowship.
I love that race and creed and gender and age and sexuality and nationality make absolutely no difference to our being a valued member of the group.
Thank you for also being part of the group.
Thank you guys!
3. Binti, Nnedi Okorafor
This is a brilliant novella, instantly giving the reader a feeling for the way this world works and how it is different from out own. Binti herself is easy to sympathize with, and I'd love to read more about her. I also liked that she comes from a culture that I'm not familiar with, and that she does not shed it even though she decides on a life-path her family doesn't agree with. I was also surprised and happy to see that the aliens in this story feel and act genuinely alien, there's a huge variety and they're not just humans with a coat of paint slapped on.
4. Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard
I quite like this concept, and the characters within it. The one problem I have with it is one I have with a lot of YA: the insistence on the importance of a love triangle. Even though I respect Victoria Aveyard for having her protagonist choose neither in the end, even the fact that a plan relied on the prince choosing a girl he barely knows and kissed once over his family, his duty, and everything he's ever known makes me think badly of the protagonist and the rebellion's intelligence, even if they were being manipulated.
Apart from that, though, I really enjoyed this book, with the society it sets up and the abilities of the Silvers.
I keep hearing good things about Binti too. Guess it needs to go on the list..
5: Drachenbrut, Naomi Novik TBR PILE -1!
The Napoleonic Wars, but with a dragon airforce. This simple, yet awesome concept is the basis of this series, and it works sooo well. Even after one book, I feel like I really know how this world works, how the dragons change it and how it still stays the same in some ways as our history. The inclusion of female dragonriders due to one species' insistence on them also allows Novik to play with gender roles and the social context in this book.
The dragons especially make a lot of sense, and the way that they interact, with each other and with their humans, due to their different sizes is explored really creatively.
Laurence and Temeraire are lovely to read about, and their beautiful friendship really forms the heart of the book. I'm excited to read more.
>8 BerlinBibliophile: This series is a real treat. And as you say, the friendship between the two, man and dragon is lovely, and so funny as well.
6. The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman. TBR PILE -1!!!
This book has been on my shelf ever since it first came out, but somehow I just never got around to reading it.
Now that I have, my very high expectations have been fulfilled and even exceeded. The world Cogman builds in this novel is fascinating and, again and again, surprising as well. The characters are a delight, and they also feel real, reacting realistically to this fantastically confusing world. I am really looking forward to learning more about them.
7. How Novels Work, John Mullan
I read this book for uni, and I had only three days to finish it. So I read as quickly as possible, but I still saw that this book is a really good introduction to many aspects of novels and their writing. This book is hardly an in-depth look at narratology, but it explains the concepts in a simple manner, with many well-explained examples taken from both classic and popular literature. I especially liked Mullan's coinage of the insufficient narrator in contrast to the unreliable one.
8. A Local Habitation, Seanan McGuire TBR PILE -1!!!
I really liked this second instalment of the Toby Daye series. Forcing Toby out of her comfort zone in San Francisco makes sense, but I also felt that this led to her maybe being a bit slow on the uptake when it came to the mystery. This is understandable, but it also led to her seeming a little unconcerned with the safety of everyone around her in a situation where many people had already been killed. Still, it was nice to see more of some characters, Quentin and Tybalt in particular, and Toby had some very good excuses for some of her oversights. The eventual resolution of the mystery was amazing, though, and more than makes up for any small complaints I had about the investigation. I will definitely be reading more.
9. The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles
This book was recommended to me by a professor because it deals with a so-called "fallen woman" in Victorian times, which has a strong bearing on my own future master's thesis.
This book honestly surprised me and challenged my expectations of literature, which can only be a good thing. The story itself is interesting and well-executed enough, but what truly stands out is the author's deconstruction of the Victorian novel as an art form and of the process of writing itself. Fowles artfully lets the reader look over his shoulder as he plots the events of the story and the characters, but even this insight is of course only what the author very carefully allows to the reader. Presenting two conflicting endings and insisting that they are both equally valid when the charcters' motivations are taken into account is a bold move, but one Fowles (by that point himself inserted into the story to observe and explain his process to the reader) pulls off with considerable style and panache.
Seldom have I been so jerked about and confused by a novel, but equally seldom have I been so entertained by ruminations on the nature of storytelling and authorship, or so drawn into a story while continually being skuilfully pulled out of it again. This really is a masterpiece.
Great review of The French Lieutenant's Woman, which I read when it was first published in the 1970's. Your review made me want to read it again.
It was made into a good movie starring Meryl Streep.
>13 arubabookwoman: I was planning on watching that, my professor recommended it too, she said they dealt very creatively with the ending, which is admittedly hard to translate into film format.
10. An Artificial Night, Seanan McGuire
I liked this better than I did A Local Habitation, I thought Toby came off as smarter and the plot was more unified and moved forward more consistently. The very idea of Blind Michael is terrifying, and it was executed well. Toby's overarching hero's journey also progressed nicely, as did her relationships with the other characters, which became more complex. I was also gratified to see old friends of Toby's instead of only potential love interests and her protegé. The Luidaeg continues to delight, and I hope to see more of her in following books.
11. Late Eclipses, Seanan McGuire
The past is starting to catch up with Toby, and while I always like "regular" cases, it's nice to see the overarching plot being furthered as well. Oleander is a good villain, maybe she taunts a bit much, but that's convincingly part of her character. Poison is always scary, but especially so when the poisoner gets creative and bypasses the old standard poisoned goblet of wine. I must admit I really like the deepening relationship between Toby and Tybalt, especially now that he no longer has to hide his knowledge of her heritage from her. I'm kinda starting to ship them.
12. The Sellout, Paul Beatty
This book starts with an outrageous premise, and then, slowly, step by step, it makes the reader believe until the premise starts to sound almost reasonable. That takes some amazing literary skill, and Paul Beatty has it in spades.
Beyond its social critique and insight, the book is also outrageously funny, which is sadly not something every satire can say for itself.
The narrator, whose first name the reader never learns, bumbles into the plot, but once he is there, he purposefully drives it forward. He often starts musing on some perfectly normal occurrence, and then it reminds him of something slightly more strange, and so on until he reaches anecdotes so crazy the reader would have shaken their head in disbelief had it been presented first. He's also not perfect, and his stalking of Marpessa is highly creepy, but at least this behavior is skillfully pointed out to be wrong by the author, even when the narrator is trying to defend it.
Another thing I appreciated about this book is its language. It flows beautifully, and I really got the sense that the author chose his words with care, especially in the long sections in which the narrator freely associates from one item to the next, in which the language turns almost lyrical.
13. Symbiont, Mira Grant TBR PILE -1!
I read the first book of this series years ago, but never got around to reading this one. Despite the long pause, it wasn't hard to get back into it, and all the memories of the first book returned quickly.
I really enjoyed this book, and especially the development of the global crisis the characters are facing. The portrayal of the sleepwalkers is sometimes a little inconsistent, but I think that's just because Grant is working towards some larger revelations in the last book of the trilogy.
I also especially liked Sal's characters development, it felt organic and unforced, yet she changes considerably over the course of the novel. Nathan, on the other hand, seems stagnant, and still like a cardboard cutout who's only there to love Sal unconditionally. The settings that Grant chooses, however, like the Candy factory hideout, more than make up for some little deficiencies.
Once more, the book ends on a cliffhanger, so I guess I'll have to read the conclusion of the trilogy more quickly than I did this one.
14. Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher
This book is absolutely hilarious. And more than that, it is charmingly written, in a conversational tone of voice that involves the reader in the shenanigans Fisher relates. Highly recommended.
15. Ruhig Blut, Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum is one book of his that, for some reason, I'd never reread after the first time. Now, having read it again, I don't really know why. It has all the things I love about the Witch books, and soem really convincing, and, ironically, convincingly human in their ideosyncracities, villains in the vampyres. It will never be my very favourite Pratchett book, that honour is reserved for Night Watch, but I greatly enjoyed the book also really appreciated Mightily Oats as a character this time around.
16. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
I read this book on the recommendation of a friend, who was raving about its suspense and mystery. I must say, it took me quite a while to get into this book, but after half of it was over I was finally hooked, and it did turn out to be incredibly suspenseful, especially in its climax. But it was also very frustrating to slog through Rachel's endless self-castigation which never led to any positive change. I suppose that's a realistic portrayal for an alcoholic, but it wasn't exactly fun to read. The mystery was good and occasionally surprising, but Rachel was a bit slow to put the pieces together. Again, probably realistic for a brain addled with alcohol, but also frustrating for the reader. The denouement was glossed over a bit much for my taste - Rachel had spent so many pages complaining about her lack of a job and then finally found one, only for that entire subplot to be dropped after the big climactic fight, and for her mother to bail her out.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, and the mystery was well-constructed and interesting to finure out, but I don't quite understand the incredible hype it's been subject to.
17. MLA Handbook, 8th edition.
This edition was actually something of a revelation to me. It's so much clearer and more concise than before! I like their move from a prescriptivist reference work in which one had to look up every single form of publishing to find out its style of citation, to a more common-sense guidebook that shows one how to combine the common elements of information on any given work.
18. The Innocence of Father Brown, G K Chesterton
I mostly enjoyed this collection of short detective stories starring Father Brown, an insignificant-looking priest who always ends up solving the crime before the professional detectives can. I especially enjoyed The Blue Cross and The Flying Stars, because I felt that these were most inventive, surprising, and made sense once everything was in the open. Occasionally, the stories were slow to boring and Father Brown was a little sanctimonious for my taste, but I mostly enjoyed it. However, a man from India appears in The Wrong Shape, and it gets incredibly racist, with both the narration and the characters spewing racial slurs (including the n-word) all over the place. Aside from the horrifying racism being bad in and of itself, this really jarred me from the story, as it's a very abrupt change from the benign, everyone can be saved and most people mean well aesthetics of the rest of the Father Brown stories.
19. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers
This book was a delight, and kept me up way past my bedtime. The characters are engaging and feel real to the reader, ideosyncracities and faults and virtues and all. I also appreciated that the alien characters feel really, truly alien, and that their cultures and physiologies aren't just "human with a coat of paint slapped on". This universe also feels hopeful in a way that not many sci-fi universes do, because sure, bad things happen, but mostly people and governments are reasonable and try to do their best. I am really looking forward to seeing how the adventures of the Wayfarer continue, especially the fallout of what happens to Lovey and Ohan.
20. One Salt Sea, Seanan McGuire
I really enjoyed the whole new aspect of this 'verse that McGuire brings in here - the Undersea. It's so creatively different from the land fae, and yet makes just as much sense when one considers the abilities and limitations of its denizens. It was also nice to have some more reasonable rulers in addition to the Torquills, and I enjoyed the Luidaeg taking a more active role in the story and confiding in Toby for once, instead of the other way around. I must say that I wasn't exactly hard-hit by Connor's death, I was never that attached to him. But the way that Toby's grieving process in the end was handled was very good.
21. Kommissar Gennat ermittelt, Regina Stürickow
This book, which tells the story of Ernst Gennat, the man who regularised murder investigations and instituted, for the first time, forensic investigative techniques, was a great read. Lots of interesting historical information and cases of Gennat's, packaged in well-written chapters that fuse the known historical cases with some invention on the author's part where the historical record is lacking. I liked the specific cases the best, although the historical background information was also interesting. It's amazing that, with the limited technology and forensics available at the time, the murder squad had a clear-up rate of over 90%.
Father Brown meets Discworld. I wonder what the Priest would have made of that lot, Miriam?!
Have a lovely weekend.
22. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
One of my favourite books of all time. I read it at least once a year, but it never gets boring, there's always something new to discover.
23. The Hanging Tree, Ben Aaronovitch
Another re-read, this time of the latest in one of my favourite series. I love the way that Aaronovitch is slowly integrating the magical and non-magical worlds, what with Peter coming up with papers on stakeholder engagement (lovely scene of him running rings around Folsom with his bureaucrat-ese) and the reveal that way more people than previously expected have some level of fae blood.
I also really appreciate the reveal of who the Faceless Man is, and reding this book again with that knowledge made everything more significant and was overall really rewarding.
24. The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher TBR PILE -1!!!
I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't as laugh-out-loud funny as Wishful Drinking, but the story was still interesting and told charmingly. I liked the balance between narration and past diary entiries, and I was actually very impressed with the poetry Carrie, as a nineteen-year-old, wrote. The stories of the interactions she has with fans at the end are, in part, horrifying, but it's amazing how positively she nonetheless talks about her fans. It was also really interesting to read about her relationship with Princess Leia, and how they had influenced each other.
25. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie TBR PILE -1!!!
I read this book for a book club, and it is really exceptional. I like the order in which the story is told, with the backstory unfolding in the seemingly interminable time in which Ifemelu is getting her hair braided before going back to Nigeria. The two protagonists are great characters. They are easy to like and feel sympathy for, yet neither one is portrayed as without fault, and these faults are quite ordinary, which somehow made Ifemelu and Obinze more convincing to me as characters. Their experiences as immigrants, legal and illegal, are also paralleled and contrasted in a really effective way, and this speaks to the enormous skill of the author. After Ifemelu goes back to the disgusting tennis coach I actually had to take some time away from the book because it affected me so much.
26. The House of the Four Winds, Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory TBR PILE -1!!!
It's so nice to read books in which it is just a given than women go adventuring, the same as men do. It's nice to let the brain have fun with this book, without constantly having to qualify how problematic the portrayal of female characters is, because it's overwhelmingly not problematic. It's nice to read an adventure story where the heroine is not seen as special and "not like other girls" for pro-actively seeking adventures and quite capably looking after herself.
The romance was a little predictable, but still enjoyable, and I liked that it wasn't a big deal that Dominic was a virgin, without there being a big hue and cry over his manliness.
And a good pirate story is always appreciated, so I really had fun with this.
27. Closer to the Chest, Mercedes Lackey
I think this book had better pacing than its predecessors, but the ending was still rather rushed.
I love the world of Valdemar, and I like the idea of a Herald Spy, but I feel like I've read this book before, because its structure and its general plot elements are much the same as any other Mags book. But I like how uncompromisingly Lackey treats the topic of the misogynistic attacks on women, and the rhetoric she uses in this book never feels out of place or overwrought. There really are such people, and they would gladly execute such a plot if they had the means. In this respect, in the true-to-life portrayal of women's issues, I've always really respected Lackey, even if I wish she'd move on to a new protagonist.
Yeah, I got it as a reward for Project for Awesome, and I think it's the start of a new series. I hope so, I like the world, even if the geography is incredibly confusing, with this seemingly being an alternate of our world, with many countries renamed, but by no means all. Germany (I think) is now Cisleithania. Confusing.
28. Learning not to be first: The life of Christina Rossetti, Kathleen Jones
A good biography of a highly interesting woman. I'm probably going to write my master's thesis on her poetry, so this was a good introduction to her life.
29. Take a Thief, Mercedes Lackey
I still really like this book, especially the parts before Skif is Chosen. I would happily have read a whole book about him breaking into the houses of the rich, but I guess there isn't any conflict in that. Still, the focus on the thief-parts on the book, uch as I enjoy them, does lead to the Collegium parts being strangely abbreviated, with barely any attention paid to Skif's schooling or him learning to fit in with the other Trainees. Nonetheless, the mystery is executed well and finished in a very satisfactory manner.
30. and 31. Exile's Honor and Exile's Valor, Mercedes Lackey
It was great to read a Valdemar novel with a slightly different perspective: not an awestruck teenager, but an adult, and an outsider in Valdemaran society. I also really enjoy the plots of these books, and the new characters who are introduced, and Selenay's perspective as well. It's interesting to see her love-struck teenage reaction have such a profound influence over both her and her country's future (as well as the further developments in the books).
Although one thing bothers me: Myste. She's such an obvious self-insert that it gets kind of ridiculous. Really, Misty, subtlety this was not.
32. The Noise of Time, Julian Barnes
This book was technically good, but I was never really pulled in, I just couldn't muster any enthusiasm. I liked the separation of the book into three sections centering around pivotal moments in Shostakovich's life, but the characters never really felt like real, fleshed-out people to me. Which is strange, because they were real people! Maybe Barnes felt that because they were real, everyone would already know them and he wouldn't have to put in the work of characterising them.
33. Contested Will, James Shapiro TBR PILE -1!!!
I've wanted to reread this book for the longest time, and I was absolutely right to do so. This is, of course, not an academic work, but it explains the different positions of the authorship question well, and Shapiro never descends to name calling, even if some things he describes are clearly ridiculous, like the Prince Tudor theory. I also really appreciate that he goes over the case for Shakespeare rather than just the cases against the other theories. I am more convinced of my Stratfordian beliefs than ever.
34. Vinegar Girl, Anne Tyler
I liked this retelling of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew well enough, at least until the ending. Tyler has removed or softened some of the most problematic aspects of the play, and I liked the family dynamic of the Battistas. However, the book ends abruptly with a rant from Kate about how men's lives are so much harder than women's because they don't learn to express emotion. That is the conclusion Tyler comes to after Kate is treated callously throughout the book by the men in her life, used as a bargaining chip and a means to an end while being disregarded as a person with her own opinions. The epilogue, which insists in a half-assed manner that they do so love each other and they do so get everything they want in life, doesn't really make this any better. One could tell that Tyler tried, but she clearly didn't want to do a straight adaptation, and she fell far short of a true subversion.
35. Pawn, Aimée Carter
This was a relatively forgettable YA book, with a common concept: People are sorted into categories based on one test, and their entire lives are determined by that. Then comes the revolution against the ruling family because they're cartoonishly evil. In this case, they keep a hunting preserve stocked with humans. Good enough for a beach read, but no more.
36, 37, 38. A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, A Conjuring of Light; VE Schwab
I loved this series. It was imaginatively constructed, and peopled with interesting, complicated characters. I liked the system of magic, with everyone being theoretically capable of some magic in Red London. Before I read the first book, I thought about what differences the Londons could have, but I could never have come up with White London, such a jarring, alien concept, and yet so plausible. I especially liked Kell and Lila's relationship, where one could tell that despite their different outlooks on life and their vastly different personalities, they still trust and respect each other.
39. Disobedience, Naomi Alderman
I read this book for uni, and I'm glad I did. It got me to engage more complexly with Judaism, and quite apart from this it was also a really good story, with interesting, fully realized characters. Despite the serious themes of this book I never got the feeling that I was being preached at by the author, but rather educated through the medium of fiction, which I always enjoy. I would really recommend this book.
40. Seychellen: Eine Anleitung zum Inselglück, Heike Mallad
This book contains anecdotes from a German woman who now lives on the Seychelles. I felt that the tone of these stories was always slightly condescending, both towards the clueless tourists and the Seychellois. Some of the stories are at least funny, but with most of them, the waited-for punchline never materializes.
41. The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss TBR PILE -1!!!
I have had this book for ages, and I was sure I would like it when I eventually got around to reading it, but the time never seemed right. Now that I have read it, I know that I was right, I did like it. The setting, of a story being told by its subject within clearly defined limits, was interesting, and the interludes and Kvothe's remarks on his own future, for example regarding Ambrose, were an interesting way of reminding the reader of the artificiality of the story and allowing Rothfuss to comment on it more directly. I would have liked to read a bit more about Kvothe's studies at the university, but the other things going on in his life were interesting as well, and Kvothe's focus on money both led him towards more adventures, and kept a highly fantastical story grounded in the mundane problems of life. To me, the story seemed a little disjointed, especially towards the ending, but then Kvothe does say that real life never plays out like in tidy fictional stories. I will definitely be reading the sequel.
42. Dissolution, CJ Sansom
This book is a mystery set during the time of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and Cromwell. The protagonist is a commissioner sent by Cromwell to solve a murder that has taken place at an abbey that Cromwell wants to surrender. Over the course of the book, more and more murders occur, and Matthew Shardlake has great diffuculties making sense of them.
I enjoyed this book, liking as I do both murder mysteries and books set in Tudor times. The book seemed well-researched, especially in comparison to another one I saw recently where there was a police commissioner and an official medical examiner in a book set during the same time... I sympathise with Shardlake, whose life is not easy, and who represents a more moderate Reformerism than Cromwell. Somehow he has managed to retain some of his innocence in the Tudor world despite his work as a lawyer and for Cromwell, and for that I like him, though I was occasionally frustrated at his tendency to not really listen to those he talks to and thus miss obvious clues. The resolution of the mystery was satisfying. I shall certainly read the sequel.
43. If We Were Villains, M.L. Rio TBR PILE -1!!!
This book simply blew me away. I started reading with incredibly high expectations, but they were met and surpassed by this exceptional book. It was so suspenseful at one point I had to take a break to emotionally recharge, but I simply had to know the ending, so I finished reading it that same day.
The author handles the characters and their complicated relationships masterfully, and all the crazy things that happen among them never feel forced or out of character.
I love how saturated this book is by Shakespeare, full of allusions and quotations and parallels to his works. As one character says, Shakespeare is like the eighth, unseen roommate of the seven central characters, always there, as if he'd just left the room. This is an amazing mystery regardless, but if you've studied Shakespeare you'll definitely get much more out of this book. You can practically feel how much the author loves Shakespeare right through the pages.
Both the Shakespeare nerd in me and the person who loves literary mysteries are wholly satisfied, loving this book without reservation.
I can already tell this will be one of my if not the favourite book of 2017.
>>40 drneutron: You definitely should, it was amazing and I'm still pondering it (and telling everyone I know about it) a week later, it was that good.
44. Ashes of Honor, Seanan McGuire TBR PILE -1!!!
I really enjoyed it. McGuire's world is so far established that the reader has a good sense of what's possible in this world and what isn't. And that makes it more shocking to the reader when something happens that seems impossible at first. I could have wished for May to have a bigger role in this, but overall I was very happy both with the plot and the character development.
45. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood TBR PILE -1!!!
Overall I liked this book. I really appreciated the open ending and the unreliable narration, in which Offred would sometimes admit to changing her description of events to fit them better into her sense of what the story should be. The world depicted in Atwood's classic is terrifying, and yet all too plausible. Already women's rights around the world are strongly contested, so it is not at all implausible that an even more extreme group could come to power and remove them completely. This book really made me think and for that I am grateful, even though I, as an ace person, really didn't appreciate Atwood equating love with identity, stating that "if love never happened to you, not ever, you would be like a mutant". Gee thanks, Atwood, for that little judgement.
46.. The run-out groove, Andrew Cartmel TBR PILE -1!!!
Overall I liked the book. The characters were developed further and the mystery was good and the solution made sense in hindsight. There was just one fly in the ointment: there are two scenes, and a couple of singular instances, that are so violently fat-phobic and ableist that I had to put down the book and fume about it. The language used is so violent and dehumanizing that I really considered just not finishing the book. One scene is so awful that I felt unclean just reading these words with my eyes. Anyone with body image issues should not read this book under any circumstances.
After the particularly awful scene it did get slightly better, and at least the ableism stopped, but in this case, basic decency is not enough, and even that Cartmel falls short of.
47. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, JK Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay TBR PILE -1!!!!
This was a re-read.
Many people I know have said that the second Harry Potter book is weak in comparison to the first one, and that the series picks up steam again only in the Prisoner of Azkaban. While I agree that this does not have the startling originality of Philosopher's Stone, in which we see the entire wizarding world for the first time, I also think that Chamber of Secrets was very necessary, especially as a way of enhancing Rowling's worldbuilding and giving Harry and co time to settle into the wizarding world before the big revelations come. So while it's not my favourite HP book, I always love rereading it. There's some fun scenes and set-pieces (like the Death-day party or the debacle of Ron's wand) and the characters and their relationships are further developed.
And this edition, of course, has Jim Kay's fabulous, beautiful artwork. It's really special to me to see the wizarding world rendered in such loving detail, and I got quite nostalgic for my own twelve-year-old self and the first time I dove into Harry Potter's world. I will always love returning to it, but especially with the added incentive of seeing all the characters I love renderedso charmingly both in the text and in the illustrations.
48. Chimes at Midnight, Seanan McGuire TBR PILE -1!!!
Now this was a real sea-change where the world of Toby Daye was concerned, if you'll forgive my pun. I was really thrilled with the plot, but also with the way the status quo of these books was shaken up. Change is good in a series such as this, and I really appreciate McGuire taking the leap, and changing both the political situation of Toby's world and her personal, romantic one. I was worried how her relationship with Tybalt might change their easy banter and respect for each other's abilities, but while Tybalt does comment that he wishes Toby wasn't in danger quite so often, he respects her need to fight for herself. And that's all I could wish for for their relationship, so kudos! I'll be interested to see how this changed political landscape will affect Toby's future.
49. The History of King Richard the Third, Sir Thomas More
I read this for a seminar, but I must say that I really enjoyed it. I don't quite agree with how More presents some events here, but I can really appreciate this book for what it is. I especially liked the narrator, full of sarcasm and intelligent comments on life, as well as More's editorializing comments on historiography.
50. Autumn, Ali Smith
I enjoyed this book. The elements of the fantastical in Daniel's chapters were fantastically realised, and their contranst with Elisabeth's most mundane time at the post office was really well done. The connection with artist Pauline Boty was interesting, and thanks to this book I have now looked at some of her paintings, so I'm very happy about that. The feeling of dislocation and dissociation brought about was transmitted very poignantly through the text, I thought.
Other than that, this book is very short, despite outward appearances: the text size is enormous.
51. The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd
This book is really brilliant, weaving together historical facts with the author's imagination to craft a really compelling story. I am very glad that the author decided to add Handful's imaginary story to this book, because otherwise it could very quickly have become a one-sided story of the heroic white sisters saving the slaves. This problematic sentimentality was spared the reader through the inclusion of Charlotte, Handful, and Sky. Their story made sure the horrors of slavery were ever-present in the reader's mind even while Sarah was off with the Quakers, dealing with other issues. But of course their story is not there only to serve the narrative of Sarah and Nina: Handful's development is really something to behold, and her resourcefulness and determination, especially after her mother disappears, were impressive, both personally, and as an example of the craft of the author. Handful was my favourite, but Sarah and Nina were also developed really well, and I appreciated the way that Sue Monk Kidd had Sarah deal with her speech impediment.
The hopeful, open ending was the perfect finish, and left me quite stunned and moved.
52. Die Nachtwache, Terry Pratchett
This was my yearly reread of this amazing book, undertaken on the 25th of May, the day of the Glorious Revolution, the day we as fans use to honour Terry Pratchett's memory.
The book is as incredible as ever, it is my favourite Discworld book of all. It's funny, but there's more to it than that: it's also moving and insightful and above all angry, angry at the unfairness of the world and of the people in it. In my opinion, it is some of the best writing Terry Pratchett has done.
GNU Terry Pratchett
53. Jane Austen the Secret Radical, Helena Kelly
I really liked the concept of this book: reading Jane Austen's books for signs of radical thought. I appreciated these readings, which I thought were generally quite convincing, if sometimes taken a bit too far in attributing motives to Jane from very little evidence. The topics are very interesting, especially the analysis of Catherine Morland as a lacking reader, as well as the exploration of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy as a radical utopian relationship.
I thought it was a strange idea to be arguing against viewing Jane Austen as an idealised figure due to popular preconceptions and then make up scenes featuring her out of whole cloth, placing words and thoughts into her mouth which were not her own. I liked these scenes, but they seemed to be contradicting the point of the book in that they portray Jane not through her own words, but through words imposed on her by Helen Kelly.
Nonetheless, the book overall was interesting and well-written
54. Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection, Derek Landy TBR PILE -1 !!!
Over all I liked the new book. I enjoyed the way the setting had changed due to the events of the previous series, and it was good to see that the magical world has stopped stagnating so completely. I liked the new characters, they seemed fresh and had interesting interactions with the old characters. It's nice to see a new generation's reaction to the last war's heroes and villains.
But what I really appreciated most was the fact that there are serious consequences to the events of the last series. Valkyrie's a different person now than she used to be, and her depression is treated with the seriousness it deserves.
I really disliked Skulduggery being evil for most of the book. I feel like having Valkyrie and Skulduggery fight because one or both are being mind-altered is a bit of a played-out trope in this series. It has simply been used too often, so it no longer has the same impact it did the first time.
A thinly disguised Donald Trump is the new viallain - I had expected an allusion or offhand joke about Trump, but this is a bit too much for my taste. Not because I think Trump doesnt deserve to be mocked on as many platformas as possible, but because I already get way too many Trump-news in real life. I don't need his awfulness in my escapist fiction as well.
All in all, an entertaining read, and I will continue reading the new series.
55. The Mandelbaum Gate, Muriel Spark
To be honest, I felt that this book was always shooting itself in the foot with its narrative style. Any tension and interest that developed from glimpses of the future or seeing strange events unfold was always immediately undercut by the narration telling the reader the secret long before it would have been time for it chronologically. One example: Freddy's belief that there will be bloodshed. This could apply to any number of characters who are in danger in crossing the border between Israel and Jordan. But, about halfway through, the reader is told that the bloodshed does not happen in Jerusalem, but back in England. Immediately, any concern I felt for the characters in Jerusalem evaporated, and the characters in England were too flat to provoke any concern whatsoever. This same thing happened with multiple other mysteries or even interesting scenes I would have liked to read played out. This constant exercise in frustration left me wanting not to finish this book at all, but sadly I had to.
56. Uncomfortably Close, Lily Brett
The first two thirds of this book were really anxienty-inducing for me. Edek treated Ruth so badly, expecting her to pay not only all of his own expenses, but to finance his friends' entire lives in New York as well. And she just accepted this treatment, while everone around her kept telling her how wonderful Edek was. Once the restaurant was up and running, the book and Ruth both became more light-hearted, and I was able to enjoy it much more. What I liked most was Ruth's letter-writing business, and the way she expressed herself through her greeting cards, as well as her musings on life and writing. Overall I had fun with this book. The recipes in the book look delicious, and I look forward to trying them.
57. The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver TBR PILE -1!!!
I was given this book in 2010 as a prize for doing well in school, and I have wanted to read it since then. Finally, I have.
I really enjoyed this book. I like the various styles Kingsolver uses for the different sections, it really conveys the feeling of the record of a life, written at different stages of someone's social and literary development. The political background of this book is particularly fascinating. I've never learned about the history of Communism in Mexico, and it was fascinating to read about this intersection of politics and art. Frida Kahlo is wonderful, both as a character and as a presence in the back of Harrison's mind for whom he performs, and to whom he feels he is accountable.
The ending of this book was especially moving and well-written, with the slow move from one perspective to another, the feeling of reality and political sanity slipping away. The ending on Isla Pixol is very fitting.
58. Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan
My general impression of this book was that it left me unsatisfied. The idea was so good that I always expected more, more heart, more development, more something that the book did not deliver. Mr Penumbra's contains many interesting ideas and charming circumstances and settings, but it doesn't do anything with them. What I missed most was any sort of character development, I think. Kat could have been awesome, but she is never explored beyond "protagonist's manic pixie dream girl". All the other characters also fulfil their functions without noticeably changing. In the end, I did not have as much fun as I would have had with a book with a more ordinary premise, executed well.
59. Prostitution and Victorian Society, Judith R. Walkowitz
A wonderful study of prostitution in Victorian Britain. The structure works well, first explaining the realities of prostitution and its standing in society, then going into the Contagious Disease Acts and how they changed that reality. My only complaint, and it is a small one, is that the author repeats herself a bit too often for my taste. Other than that, the book is very clearly written and makes a convincing argument.
60. Emma, Jane Austen
Another re-read. I think I like this book better the more often I read it. There are always more things to be discovered, and my opinion of the characters also tends to change with every new read-through. This time, for example, I was more alert to the terrible way that Frank Churchill treats almost everybody in Highbury, but especially Jane Fairfax and Emma Woodhouse. To be shamelessly flirting with one while secretly engaged to the other is not fair to either of them, and could easily have caused real harm. It was only through luck that it didn't cause anything but emotional distress on the part of Jane. And that's bad enough already, the last person who should be hurting Jane is her fiancé.
>52 BerlinBibliophile: I did my share of shameless flirting back in the day, Miriam, but then again I did dispense with engagement and went straight into marriage........when the flirting stopped, of course!
Have a lovely Sunday.
61. Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England, Sharon Marcus
This is a really wonderful book. I was especially impressed with the way that Sharon Marcus combined historical and literary analysis, and "just reading" is a real breath of fresh air in the field. I must say that I was quite surprised at many of her findings, but very positively so. I recommend this book most strongly to anyone looking to learn more about women's relationships in Victorian England.
62. Jane Austen at Home, Lucy Worsley TBR PILE -1!!!
This biography about Jane Austen is excellently written and researched, but what makes it stand out among the many books on Austen's life is Worsley's style as a writer. She treats her subjects as real people, not just historical paragons. She shows them to be irritable and changeable and hilarious and mean and kind and just plain human. She does this while maintaining a charming style that draws the reader into a personal involvement in all the little concerns she relates, as well as the big ones. Lucy Worsley is one of the best historians, I think, at making history accessible and entertaining for the lay reader.
63. Thief's Magic, Trudi Canavan TBR PILE -1!!!
This book didn't suck me in the way the Black Magician Trilogy did, but it was still a good read. I must say I was much more interested in Rielle's story than in Tyen's until the very end, when his finale really knocked it out of the park. I hope the storylines will converge in the next book.
64. Soulless, Gail Carriger
Always a fun reread when I need some quick sugar for the brain.
65. Rather be the Devil, Ian Rankin TBR PILE -1!!!
I am coming to like the Rebus series more and more the older Rebus himself gets. I like the greater involvement of Siobhan and the younger generation in general, and I like that Rebus is finally taking healthy steps to better his own life instead of wallowing in the awfulness of it.
But these changes don't mean that the mystery is any less compelling or gritty or smart than the earlier ones. I was surprised by the solution, and the conclusion really made me anticipate the next book in the series.
66. The Jane Austen Project, Kathleen A. Flynn
I really liked this book. I think the concept is brilliant, and the execution is good as well. I would have liked a few more details about the time travellers' daily lives in the Regency, but overall I was really impressed. I liked the characterisation of Jane. She didn't love Rachel too easily, and their insinuation into the Austens' lives was quick, but realistic enough. I especially liked the ending: a very Austen-like ending where the main characters have confessed their feelings, but there is some doubt about the future and the readers don't actually see their shared life.
The big question: What would you give up so that Jane Austen could live and go on to write seventeen more novels? My answer: a whole lot, and the characters of this novel agree.
67. Gray, Leonie Swann
A really good read and a fun mystery. I liked the portrayal of Augustusand Gray's relationship, and the way it developed slowly as Augustus became more and more interested in solving Eliot's murder. I also appreciate the way Augustus's OCD was handled: as a serious condition with a large impact on his life, but also not the only thing in his life.
The mystery was surprising and wrapped up neatly, despite the fact that I would have preferred for the murderer to be held properly accountable.
Gray was simply adorable.
I also loved the little flipbook in the corner of my edition. Extremely cute, and it showed that someone really put some thought into the design of the book.
68. The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins
A solid mystery, even if some of the sections are rather longwinded. It was really interesting to see the characters we had met in one narrative perspective reappear in another, and to see how the different characters perceived them in wildly different ways.
The mysterious threatening presence of the three Indians as a dangerous Other was problematic, but honestly not the worst portrayal one can meet with in Victorian literature.
Wishing you a lovely weekend, Miriam.
I remember quite enjoying The Moonstone although it was a long time since I have read it.
>>59 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul, have a good week!
69. The Penguin Book of English Short Stories, edited by Christopher Dolley
Some really good stories, some were a bit meh.
70. Fleshmarket Close, Ian Rankin TBR PILE -1!!!
I'm finding that in general, I like the later Rebus books more. There's change in the setting and the characters, and Rebus is no longer the lone wolf who despises his coworkers, Siobhan is a detective he respects for her abilities and who he's even friends with, as far as that goes with him. I also liked that Rebus had to confront some of his own prejudices in this book. It's hard to confront the fact that society instills racism in us all, but it must be confronted and constantly worked on to get better. The mystery was also solid, and I liked the involvement of so many different police divisions, and the interdepartmental sniping that brought with it.
71. Das Dschungelbuch, Rudyard Kipling, illustriert von MinaLima
When I was a small child I saw Disney's Jungle Book film and I got so scared that I started crying and had to stop watching. My parents remembered that this year, and decided to give me this beautifully illustrated edition of the Jungle book. As a grown-up, I an now appreciate that the stories in this collection are wonderful and inventive, and the accompanying illustrations breathtaking, the interactive parts fun to play with. I think my favourite story was the last, in which the army animals discuss their service. It had such a dreamlike quality, in which animals language is understood as a matter of course, it was quite enchanting, and I really appreciated all the different personalities of the animals.
72. At Bertram's Hotel, Agatha Christie
Overall I thought this was a good mystery with a satisfying conclusion, but there was not enough of Miss Marple herself in it for my taste.
73. One of our Thursdays is missing, Jasper Fforde
I love the Thursday Next series, but it took me a while to get into this one. Probably because this book doesn't feature the "real" Thursday the readers know and love, but the in-universe written version from the ghostwritten stories of Thursday's adventures. The new, written Thursday is quite different from the original model, but very likeable and relatable in her wish to quietly stay home while others handle the heroics. After I'd gotten used to the difference in style, I really liked this book, and the plot was quite riveting, especially the more meta aspects of a character crossing over into the "real" world and the plot very self-consciously relying on cliché and well-known (both to the reader and the BookWorld characters) meta narratives and devices.
Although I still don't appreciate Fforde's digs at Fanfiction when his own series relies very heavily on that itself.
74. The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch
All in all I really liked this book. I enjoyed the fantasy-Venice setting, and the fantasy aspects were integrated well into the story, explained as they became relevant, and not info-dumped in the beginning. I also liked the protagonists, and I am eager to read more about them.
What bothered me a bit was that there was seemingly a limit of one relevant active female character at a time. First Nazca, then the gladiator sisters who were barely more than window-dressing, and finally the Spider. I hope this improves in future books, because otherwise the book and its characters were really cool and well explored.
The ending, especially, was incredibly suspenseful. I was on the edge of my seat, and will definitely continue with this series.
75. To Marry an English Lord, Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace
An interesting book about a strange phenomenon that began around the end of Victoria's reign. American heiresses coming to England in order to snag a title, and impoverished English lords only too glad to snatch at the cash infusion to keep their estates solvent. The book's style is conversational and gossipy, quite fitting for this sort of topic. I would have liked the book to go into more depth on the fates of these heiresses after marriage, but this was clearly not meant to be academic, so I can let some shallowness slide.
After a short reading break, here I go again.
76. Here Be Dragons, Sharon Kay Penman TBR PILE -1!!!
I read this book because I loved The Sunne in Splendour. It didn't quite reach that standard, but I still had a really good time reading Here Be Dragons. I enjoy the narrative style of having so many point-of-view characters, it gives the reader a fuller picture of the setting and the larger conflicts taking place within it. The characters, to be honest, I connected with less well. I felt that they were very much portrayed from the outside, without the reader really getting a look in at their thoughts, their quirks, their personalities. We saw a lot of the decision-making on important historical events, but not a lot that allowed us to see into the everyday life and relationships of these characters. Despite this narrative style choice, I thought that the historical setting was beautifully brought to life and I very much enjoyed the book.
77. Anatomy of Murder, Imogen Robertson
I bought this book mostly accidentally, but I quite enjoyed it. There are a lot of references to the previous book in the series, but it's not necessary to read it to understand this one, everything is introduced well enough. I always enjoy historical novels and murder mysteries, so this combination worked very well for me. I liked the characters and the plot was complex enough to interest, but not so convoluted as not to make sense anymore.
78. The Winter Long, Seanan McGuire
Another really good instalment in the series. The revelations of this book make a lot of events and seeming inconsistencies from the preceding books make sense, and finally "getting it" is a really satisfying feeling. I'm eager to see how the ending of this book changes the setting in future books.
79. Teufelsfrucht, Tom Hillenbrand
I liked this book overall, but there were a couple of small things I disliked. Like the protagonist, an unathletic chainsmoking chef, preferring to go up against armed mercenaries himself rather than call the police, apparently because he wouldn't want to look a fool in case the mercenaries have destroyed the evidence. Other than that, however, the mystery was good, the descriptions of food and Luxemburg delicious and picturesque-sounding, respectively, and the protagonist was likeable. The secondary characters did not proceed far beyond the one-dimensional, but maybe that will be fixed in a future instalment. I for one would be interested in reading that.
>70 BerlinBibliophile: Sounds an interesting book, Miriam.
Have a great weekend.
80. The Furthest Station, Ben Aaronovitch
I was really happy that I finally got to read this book. Overall I was very happy with it, though of course I would have preferred a full-length novel after all this waiting. I really loved getting to see more of Abigail and Jaget. Abigail's involvement with the foxes keeps getting more mysterious, and I love that Jaget is now the official officer responsible for "weird shit" on the transport police.
There were a few editorial issues I noticed, like a sentence being repeated almost word for word in the beginning and end of the book (and not in an intentional echo either) and the use of the wrong homonym for a situation. Maybe it was rushed? I don't know, but if I'm noticing problems with something as small as this, it means that I really could not find fault with the characters and the storyline.
I hope Abigail gets to be an official apprentice soon! There are so many shenanigans to come, and I really look forward to seeing Nightingale's reaction to those...
81. Dame, König, As, Spion; John Le Carré
I thought this book was meant to be such a classic spy thriller, but it took me forever to read because it was just that boring. I did not feel like reading it at all once it had started, and I barely managed any connection with the characters, who seem to be entirely made up of clichés. And, seriously, a character sitting around reading files for over fifty pages is about fifty too many.
>73 BerlinBibliophile: Sorry that one didn't do much for you Miriam.
Have a great weekend.
82. Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire
The idea of fairy-tale children being unable to really adjust back to our world is really compelling, and McGuire was really creative in thinking up the many different alternative worlds. What I also really appreciated is that the protagonist is asexual, and this is treated respectfully and incorporated organically into the story. That's really rare.
83. The History of the Kings of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth
All in all, a good story as well as a historically significant text. The parts about Arthur are, of course, the most in-depth portrayal of a British King in the book, but the other, shorter biographies were interesting as well. I was especially fascinated by this early version of King Lear and by Gwendolen, who defeated her husband in battle and ruled the kingdom in her own right for many years.
But of course most of the kings mentioned by Geoffrey only get very short descriptions, often no more than whether they were a good ruler or not, and those passages can get tedious.
I was wondering about the internal morality of the book, though. Often, when Geoffrey describes a king as hateful to God, it is a sign that something terrible will happen to him. Not so in the case of the gay king, who has a long and successful rule, or in the case of the king who ate human flesh but was not punished. Strange to see Geoffrey change his tune like that.
84. Turtles all the way down, John Green
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It's a more mature exploration of the protagonist's life than Green's earlier books, I think, and I really liked that protagonist and her supporting cast. I don't have OCD, but the descriptions of Aza's thought spirals were so visceral that I started feeling anxious myself, and couldn't stop worrying for some time after I finished the novel. I was also very impressed by the fact that Green has his characters call out each other's privileges very openly. Neither Aza nor Daisy were entirely innocent of wrongdoing in their friendship, and I liked that Green was able to show that while still having them keep their strong friendship. The very ending, almost epilogue, in which we learn what happens to the characters after the end of the book, seemed a little too pat for my taste, but that is explained in-universe, and it is more of a stylistic preference on my part than a real criticism. The detective story the characters live through (and partly invent about themselves) was interesting, but very rightly played the second fiddle to the possibilities it offered for the exploration of characters. That was what the book was really about, and for me, John Green has hit the mark.
>76 BerlinBibliophile: Impressed that you waded through that one, Miriam. Not sure how much of it was propagating legend and how much was genuine history though.
85. North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
I mostly enjoyed this book. I especially appreciated the descriptions of Milton and the industrial scenes, with the strike and the workers. The ending was a bit abrupt for my taste, resolving one of the central issues of the book in the last two pages. I guess that just wasn't what was most important to Gaskel, and it shows, both in the industrial details she lovingly depicts and in the love story, which she wastes barely any time on.
86. Moabit, Volker Kutscher
The first thing you notice about this book is that it is beautiful. It is wonderfully illustrated, full of the everyday objects of 1920s Berlin. The colour scheme is striking: bold brick red, sky blue, black. The story is interesting as well. Told in turn through three perspectives, in second, first, and third person. That really drives home the difference between these characters to the reader, and leads to a small moment where one has to get used to this new perspective. It's really effective. I haven't read the series this book is a sort of prequel to, but that was no problem. I would have wished for more closure at the end, for a solution to the mystery, but the emotional impact of the senseless violence is satisfying, even though the crime remains unsolved.
87. Red Seas under Red Skies, Scott Lynch
This book took a while to get going, but once it did, it really took off. The cliff hanger at the end was tragic, I really need to read the next book. This book finally did better in its representation of women, in there being more than one at a time relevant to the plot. I loved the characterisation of Zamira and her children and her crew. The entire piracy arch was exciting and new and a happy departure from the last book. This book could have used a little more editing, though, because it still contains duplicate paragraphs and such concise words as "gold-gilded".
All in all, the book was a bit uneven, but still a good read and a fitting sequel.
88. Provenance, Ann Leckie
The title of this book is incredibly apt. This book revolves around origins: the origins of civilizations, of species, of names, of objects, and of relationships and identities. In the end, the novel shows that sometimes provenance is less important than the significance people attach to that provenance. As long as people believe in the significance of something, it does not matter whether the physical object representing the thing is the original or a forgery or a replacement.
It was wonderful to dive into this world again, and especially to see it from a non-Radchai perspective. I liked most of the newly introduced characters, and am especially eager to learn more about Captain Tic and their life growing up on the Geck planet. I am looking forward to reading more!
89. The Rebecca Rioter, Amy Dillwyn
Short but sweet. This book deals with a real historical event, but Amy Dillwyn has found a way to stick close to the real story while also giving her characters room to breathe. Evan is an engaging protagonist who the reader sympathises with even when they don't agree with him. Evan, far from accepting the realities of classist societies without question, satirizes them beautifully again and again. One of my favourite passages from the novel is the one in which he imagines how the upper classes would react if poor people entered their homes without invitation and started inspecting the place and asking "well-meaning" philanthropic questions.
90. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Anonymous
This is a great poem, even if the ending doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I love the descriptions of the landscape, especially the really exceptional lines at the beginning of the second part describing the changing of the seasons throughout the year.
91. Northern Lights, Philip Pullman
I'm reading this book again, after having last read it as a child. The sense of wonder is still there, and that really imaginative world, and wonderful characters as well. But now, as an adult, the treatment of the Church seems incredibly heavy-handed to me, like a kind of reverse Narnia. At certain points this became so intrusive as to quite pull me out of the story, but other than that, this is a wonderful book, and I quite envy Lyra's life among Oxford's scholars and urchins.
92. Murder on Christmas Eve, various authors
This is a book of mystery short stories set around Christmas, and like with any collection, the stories are of extremely variable quality. Some of them I really liked, like Ian Rankin's and Val McDermid's. Others were a sexist mess, like the first story in the collection, which comments on the murder victim's virginity and denigrates the murderer by calling her a stupid harpy drenched in cheap perfume. I guess if there's no substance to the story and no real motive for the murder, insults are the only way to go. Still, despite these missteps, overall I enjoyed this collection of christmas-themed mysteries.
93. Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth TBR PILE -1!!!
This was a very interesting book, full of information that I did not know. The descriptions of life in Poplar in the 1950s were so strange to me, it is a life I never knew about and never really thought about either. But Worth really makes those people come alive, and I was drawn in to their trials and joys.
94. Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
I admire what Hardy was doing with this novel, from the subtitle describing Tess as "A Pure Woman" to finally allowing her a measure of revenge. The novel is also technically excellent. At the same time, however, it is profoundly depressing to read about the terrible violence done to Tess by the men in her life, and so I couldn't really say that it feels good to read this book. I am glad I did, but I won't be re-reading this one.
95. Shadows of the Workhouse, Jennifer Worth
This book was seriously depressing to read, but also fascinating. It is full of interesting information, told through three personal stories told at great length. They affected me greatly, even more so, of course, because they were all true.
96. Cove, Cynan Jones
This book has a long-winded and twisty publication history, but that has led to the text now being a finely honed work in which every word does its job. I can't really say anything about it except that the prose is beautifully simple and the tenses are used to great effect.
97. The Diary of a Bookseller, Shaun Bythell
A fun read. The customers and other tribulations of a bookseller Bythell describes are often as absurd as they are comical, but the book describes both the bad and good sides of working in a bookshop without romanticizing too much.
98. This Savage Song, Victoria Schwab
A fun read inbetween books for university. It has an interesting system of monsters and I'm excited to explore this world further.
Well you are edging ever closer to your 115 book goal this year Miriam. Good luck with that and I think you'll make it. xx
>91 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul, I hope I will :)
99. News from Nowhere, William Morris
This is a bad excuse for a novel. It has barely any plot, and is a transparent excuse for Morris to lecture the reader about the communist utopia he envisioned after the revolution. The characters are flat and lifeless, and the tone unbearably didactic and condescending. Hard pass on this one.
100. Saints of the Shadow Bible, Ian Rankin
I read this book in anticipation of a trip to Edinburgh. Rebus is back on the force, though in somewhat reduced circumstances. While he grumbles slightly, he mostly takes it well that Siobhan Clarke is now his superior. What he takes less well is the investigation into his old group of colleagues. They were dirty, but not quite dirty enough, Rebus hopes, to murder someone now. Rebus is torn between his loyalty to Siobhan and the police, and his old buddies, who are long since retired. This leads to great character-interactions, even though the mystery itself is one of the more forgettable ones in the series. Overall a satisfying read.
101. Tempest, edited by Mercedes Lackey
Overall I had fun reading this book. There were some great stories, some not so great ones, but I was just happy to be back in this 'verse.
102. Artemis, Andy Weir TBR PILE -1!!!
I love heists, I love science fiction and space exploration. It's as if this book had been written just for me. With one little exception: I think Weir fell into the trap that many male authors fall into of having their female narrators spend just a little too much time on their own sexiness in life-or-death situations. That sometimes pulled me out of the narrative a little, but other than that, Jazz was an engaging protagonist in a cast full of distinctive personalities. I like how much work Weir obviously put into making Artemis a believable city, with both its futuristic and small-town aspects intersecting in interesting new ways. The ending was certainly suspenseful!
103. Down among the Sticks and Bones, Seanan McGuire TBR PILE-1!!!
Even though I knew the basic structure of the story, and its ending, from the preceding book, this one was still an enthralling read. Somehow, McGuire keeps coming up with fantastical new worlds, each as strange and fascinating and different as the last. I can only hope that she will continue to do so for a very long time to come.
This is a time of year when I as a non-American ponder over what I am thankful for.
I am thankful for this group and its ability to keep me sane during topsy-turvy times.
I am thankful that you are part of this group.
I am thankful for this opportunity to say thank you.
>95 PaulCranswick: This year I attended my first thanksgiving dinner, and thought about what I was thankful for. I am thankful for all the great books I read, and thankful for this group, where I can share my love for books with likeminded fellow-readers.
104. The last September, Elizabeth Bowen
I know that the point of the book is that the ordinary life of the upper class goes on barely disturbed in the midst of revolution, but that ordinary life is so staggeringly boring that I was too annoyed with the book to appreciate that point.
105. The Morte Darthur, Sir Thomas Malory
Some episodes in this book I really enjoyed, others not so much. The original tale of Sir Gareth was great, as were the tales of Lancelot & Guenivere and the Death of Arthur. The weak spot, to me, was the Tale of the Sangreal. Sir Galahad is so superhumanly perfect that it is very hard to identify with him, and it seems unfair that the quest should be so easy for him when Sir Percival, who is just as "pure" as Sir Galahad, should be tested so much more strenuously.
This is a very important work of literature, but that does not mean that it is always fun to read. I'm glad I read it, but now I'm ready for a break from Arthurian legend.
106. Into the Drowning Deep, Mira Grant
This book is terrifying and brilliant in equal measure. I really appreciated the diverse characters, and how they reacted very differently to the monsters from the deep being real. The monsters themselves are a terrifying force of nature, and Grant has obviously put a lot of thought into how they would work as underwater predators able to come into the air. They are just the right mix of scary fact and scary mystery to keep the reader guessing. The ending of the book sneaks up on the reader just as stealthily as the monsters do, and I had to spend some time reading non-fiction before I could sleep again...
107. Love on the Dole, Walter Greenwood
This book is certainly radical in its portrayal of unemployment and working class poverty. It is hardbreaking to read abour Harry Hardcastle's perpetual hope that things will go all right, that he will find a job, that he will manage on the dole. This hope is both frustrating for the reader, because it is so far removed from reality, and uplifting in its perpetually positive outlook. While the book as a whole couldn't be called feminist, the ending that Greenwood writes for Sally Hardcastle is still a pleasant surprise and one that seems to go straight against morality norms of the time. She makes an informed decision in order to empower herself, and is not shamed or punished for it by the other characters or by the narrative.
108. Our Dark Duet, Victoria Schwab
A good read, and I liked the expansion of this world beyond the borders of Verity City.Simply getting rid of one tyrant allows others to spring up in his place immediately, and our protagonists feel the consequences of that in this book. I disliked the ending, but up until that point I liked the plot and the resolution. The ending even made sense when it came to themes and foreshadowing, I just didn't care for it.
109. The Girls, Emma Cline
This book left me seriously conflicted. On the one hand, it evokes powerful feelings and portrays the anxieties of unfinished girlhood truly, if not accurately. On the other hand, the prose is sometimes truly pretentious, so encumbered by senseless similes that the sentences lose all meaning. And finally: there is something uncomfortably voyeuristic and ghoulish about basing something so closely on real events, and then describing the gruesome murder of these characters with their real-life counterparts with such voracious enthusiasm and appetite for graphic detail.
110. The Once and Future King, T H White TBR PILE -1!!!
Overall, I quite loved this book. It's wonderfully inventive with the old Arthurian legends, but at the same time it's obvious that White knew Malory's and Geoffrey of Monmouth's versions very well. You need to master a subject before you're able to play with it and change things around successfully, and White certainly knew Arthurian legend well enough. The Sword in the Stone is simply enchanting, full of strange magic and, at the same time, a refreshingly down-to-earth style of narration. White doesn't let himself be bound by the available metaphors of the time, and there's great fun in seeing something compared to a runaway train, only for the narration to comment that this is absurd because trains had not been invented yet.
I love the way that White deals with the Arthur-Lancelot-Guenever triangle. Unlike Malory, he doesn't play favourites, and all three come off relatively well, or at least humanised and understandable.
The book of Merlyn was sadly overbearingly didactic and, despite liking the animal sequences, I wish it hadn't been included. It would have been a stronger ending to finish with Arthur, defeated, on the eve of his final battle.
It is that time of year again, between Solstice and Christmas, just after Hanukkah, when our thoughts turn to wishing each other well in whatever language or image is meaningful to the recipient. So, whether I wish you Happy Solstice or Merry Christmas, know that what I really wish you, and for you, is this:
>103 PaulCranswick: >104 ronincats:
Thank you both very much for your messages, and happy holidays to you as well! I hope you had relaxing days.
111. A Great and Terrible Beauty, Libba Bray
I loved this book when I was a teenager, and now that I have reread it I can still see why. The world of this book is imaginative and pulls you in, wanting to know more about the realms, the same way that the protagonists do. The main characters are also refreshing, four teenage girls unhappy in the narrow constraints placed upon them by their Victorian society. I love that they develop a genuine friendship despite a beginning of bullying and sniping, and that they are allowed to be smart and naive, selfish and generous, all at the same time. They seem like real people one could meet at school, and that's the book's great draw.
112. Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow TBR PILE-1!!!
This book is a real achievement. It takes an eventful life and turns it into a story that a reader will want to follow. It sticks to the facts, of course, but it explains them so well and imbues them with such interest that I never got bored.
113. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, JK Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay
This has always been my favourite Harry Potter book, and Jim Kay's illustrations bring it to life beautifully. I especially loved the ones of the Hippogriffs. I thought that there were fewer illustrations in this one, and more painted page backgrounds, but maybe That's because the books are getting longer and the same number of illustrations seems like fewer. A joy to read either way.
114. Etiquette and Espionage, Gail Carriger
This book is as fluffy as a meringue, but it is a fun read and has some fun ideas. The idea of girls learning espionage at a boarding school is perhaps not entirely new, but it is executed with a great sense of fun and of the ridiculous in such a situation.
115. Curtsies and Conspiracies, Gail Carriger
Another fun romp through this finishing school for espionage. The outfits are getting more complicated, as are the political knots to be unravelled, and the stakes (pun intended) are higher. I'll certainly keep reading.
It was a good year for reading overall. I finished some books I had long been meaning to read, and decreased by TBR pile, at least a little. I finished the challenge I set myself, even if only just.
My least favourite book of the year was News from Nowhere, by William Morris. I read it for class, and hated it, from its flat characters to its contrived plot there was nothing about it I liked, and I said so in class, loudly, and with emphasis.
My very favourite book, by a wide margin, was If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. I was incredibly hyped for it, but it still blew me away completely. I would recommend it to everyone interested in Shakespeare, the theatre, and tragedy. I'm sure I will reread this book many times in future.
That was my reading year. I wish you all a happy new year, and good reading in 2018!!!
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