littlegeek's 2019 reads
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Happy New Year! I'm hoping 2019 is better than last year. It was a rough one. But not for reading, that was great.
I'm still working my way through Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente. I'm enjoying it, but I do have to say that sometimes I'm finding it hard to visualize the characters. Some of the fantastical creatures are kind of vague in my mind, and then there's the whole "everyone has 8 names" thing that is so very Russian. I have to remind myself "the one whose name starts with N is the one that somehow is made of gun parts or something?"
Finished Deathless. It's a unique blend of fairy tale and 20th century Russian history. Poignant, terrifying, touching, bewildering. I think if I was more familiar with Russian fairy tales I would have been less confused. I really liked it, tho!
Then I read The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld. Pretty basic mystery, quick read. Might be good for an airplane!
I had trouble sleeping last night so I'm already on my 3rd book of the year! Wanted something long and involving so I'm now reading Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.
>12 littlegeek: I greatly enjoyed fairyland, so I'll have to try her other works.
>1 littlegeek: Happy New Year, my friend. I hope you get your wish and 2019 is a wonderful one for you.
Still working my way slowly through Pillars of the Earth. There's a major tennis tournament going and that cuts significantly into my reading time.
Anyhoo, it's keeping my attention but it's so average in every way. No attempt at interesting style, plot elements that are very obvious, characters pretty much central casting. I guess this is the kind of book that makes bestseller lists. The story is just engaging enough and it demands almost nothing from the reader.
One thing that is disturbing:
The setting in the middle ages makes it feel like reading a high fantasy novel without any fantasy elements, which is kinda weird for me.
I'll probably finish it, but for me it's a 1000 page palate cleanser.
Now off to catch up on all your threads!
>19 littlegeek: I read Pillars of the Earth when I was a young teen. The sex parts I read when I was in a private place. They were quite an eye opener for me. Other than that, and the dirt, there isn't much I remember, except they were building a cathedral.
>19 littlegeek: & >20 MrsLee:
Pillars of the Earth was a DNF for me. I was going to give up after 22 pages but I felt guilty (Catholic upbringing) that I had not given it a good enough chance. I gave it to page 125 and then called it a day. I just checked my review and I obviously sanitised the review. A couple of extracts from my review are below. I think they demonstrate that the three of us were disappointed in this tedious book.
The characters were wooden, and endless detail was presented on the tools of a mason; the architectural details of a cathedral; the layout of an earl's castle; the social hierarchy; etc...
Unfortunately, I was looking to be entertained and the characters were not interesting enough to make me care; the story was drawn out and predictable; and the endless detail was tedious.
The final straw for me was
>21 pgmcc: I don't mind the architectural detail, but the lack of compelling characters is the real issue for me. I've been watching a lot of tennis and not really reading much, once the tournament is over, I might bail.
Today I used "DNF" on another website and nobody seemed to know what it was! I thought it had more generalized use than just book websites.
So yeah, I bailed on Pillars of the Earth. Life is too short and there are too many books to read mediocre fiction.
Now reading The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Way more worth my while already!
I vividly remember being steered away from Pillars of the Earth by my favourite local independent bookshop owner. Having read A Place Called Freedom I havr a pretty good idea why, but all the hype around the Pillars of the Earth had led me to believe that it would be better.
>26 clamairy: Maybe I would enjoy an adaptation, but as a book it was meh for me. A lot of people like it tho!
>27 littlegeek: Looks like I read it for a book group, so I had added incentive.
>28 clamairy: Admit it, you were 14 and doing a school project on 11th century life in England. You had to read it for your project and it had all the details you needed.
>29 pgmcc: Sorry to disappoint you. I was 49, but it was for a group that was sort of a "Wine Club with Books."
Thank you for making sure I'll never trick myself into reading Pillars of Earth ;-)
Finished The Miniaturist and quite enjoyed it. The setting of 17th century Amsterdam and the whole East India Company stuff was interesting. Some of the character's attitudes were a little "modern" for the time frame, but I was willing to overlook that.
Now I'm reading Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. I really enjoy Nigerian scifi/fantasy and this one seems good so far.
>33 littlegeek: I did a book group discussion on the Miniaturist and I personally felt it was the setting that was the most compelling element of the novel.
>35 jillmwo: Agreed. I saw all the plot elements coming from a mile off. I have read so many novels that I usually don't dock a book too much for that, tho.
In addition to my Kindle book, I am now listening to The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner. It's on the short list for the Tournament of Books. https://themorningnews.org/article/the-2019-tournament-of-books-shortlist-and-ju...
I love the Tournament, I follow it every year. I usually only manage to read a few of the books before the tourney begins, but it gives me good ideas. I was surprised what made the short list this year, given what was on the long list. They seem to be going for the most obscure.
I've added Children of Blood and Bone to my list for later in the year. Good shooting!
Finished Children of Blood and Bone. It's good for YA. I think I'm not the audience for YA anymore, at least not the adventure, feels-like-a-video-game kind of YA. It's like the book is yelling at me all the time, there is no subtlety or nuance. Which is fine if you're a teenager and you need everything spelled out (every 10 pages they reiterated the goal "to bring magic back." I get it!). But I'm old and I like things that are calmer and more measured. All that said, I'd definitely recommend this book for the intended audience. Good themes, lots of action, female protagonists, etc. One caveat:
Now I'm reading a book from the Tournament of Books shortlist: The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea. Saga of a Mexican family on both sides of the border. I'm really enjoying it.
>39 littlegeek: In regards to your spoiler,
>40 foggidawn: yeah, that, too. As for the animals:
>41 littlegeek: Yeah, I agree, more description would make those choices go down easier.
I was sick last week so I haven't had the wherewithal to deal much with the internet but I did manage to read a couple of books.
The House of Broken Angels was quite good. It's more a series of vignettes than a real novel, but it's full of love and humor. And sometimes that's just what you need.
Next I read My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. What a weird book! I think my enjoyment was enhanced by the fact of my illness (just a cold). The protagonist is so messed up, but I loved the dark humor. My criticism is the ending was
I'm now reading Warlight by Michael Ondaatje. His writing is so opaque, like there's a gauze over everything, but that's part of the charm and adds to the mystery. At this point in my reading life, plots and characters are often very familiar so style and tone are more important to me. This one has those in spades.
I ended up really liking Warlight. I'm a sucker for delicate prose.
Now working on my "leftovers on my Kindle" project. Reading Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. I had completely forgotten what it was about and why I bought it. I'm enjoying it so far. I'm trying to have the characters speak in an Irish accent in my head but not really succeeding, I'm afraid.
I haven't been around the Dragon much lately as my baseball team is in the mix for a big free agent which has taken over my internet time, but still reading books.
Finished Skippy Dies. This book has everything: romance, heartbreak, revenge, string theory, Irish folklore, WWI (as noted by Sakerfalcon), eating disorders, donuts! A little overlong, but very entertaining.
Now reading Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. Too soon to know what's going on.
Finished Asymmetry. Meh. It's got lots of first novel issues, one I find especially egregious is using cultural references as character development. That and it's just too clever by 3/4.
I think I've been reading too many books striving to be "literary" lately. I just downloaded Dark Matter, a scifi thriller. That should help.
Also, I have pinkeye so I'm stuck at home for a few days, although I will have to give my eye a rest from time to time.
Well, that was silly. I mean, I knew what I was getting into reading a best selling thriller, but LOL.
So many issues with the plot and so much science to hand wave away, but whatever, it was ok for an airplane read or, like for me, a sickroom read.
Spending the year reading TBRs and library books only, I haven't forgotten the paper books. I am now reading a book I received years ago as a Santathing book (I forget from whom), Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger. There's like 18 books in this series, too, and most of them are available in my library so that's pretty cool if I like it.
I enjoyed Iron Lake, altho I'm not sure it lived up to the enthusiastic fuss when it came out. As I recall, I liked the image of the lake and the pacing. I haven't read any of the sequels.
Hm, well, Iron Lake was only meh for me. I did finish it, but I found that I didn't like the protagonist at all. Too macho, too emotionally clueless. And the romance stuff fell really flat for me. I did like the incorporation of Native American culture.
Anyway, I felt like I needed something light and kind (no murders), so I'm reading A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. I haven't read her since the 90s. It's so white and middle class (like me) so it's all very familiar. I've not been going for that in a few years so it almost seems novel in its familiarity. (huh?)
Spending the year reading TBRs and library books only
That was my resolution too.
Then I discovered some books for £1 as a discount bookstore sold off renaindered stock...The temptation was too great.
I felt the same way about Iron Lake, littlegeek. Not interested enough in the characters or writing to continue. I chose it because it's semi-local (northern MN is close enough to where I live) and the Native American aspect, but I have too many other things to read.
>53 -pilgrim-: I totally understand. So far I've been "good" but that new Elizabeth McCracken might send me over the edge.
Finished A Spool of Blue Thread. Read more like a series of short stories than a novel, and seemed to have a very different idea of which characters were compelling enough to spend time getting to know. I was particularly annoyed with
Now reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.
I have found a workaround for my Elizabeth McCracken problem - I found $65 worth of amazon gift cards lying around the house so I entered them. This is not my money so I don't feel bad about spending it! I will only use in case of emergency.
New McCracken Bowlaway is waiting for me after I finish Cutting for Stone (which I am really enjoying, btw).
. >58 littlegeek: This is not my money so I don't feel bad about spending it! I
Neat solution. ;-)
I finished Cutting for Stone and enjoyed it immensely. It's definitely NOT for anyone who is squeamish about medical procedures, but I personally find that stuff fascinating. It kind of reminded me of John Irving a little, but not as funny. The plot hinges on coincidence a little too much, but I didn't really care.
Now reading Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken. I love the weirdness.
General announcement: I am so far behind on Green Dragon. One of these days I'll catch up with all your threads, and I will not bump them up with my comments, but if you had a birthday or something notable that you shared recently, know that I care and I'm sending good vibes to you all.
>61 littlegeek: I know the feeling of being behind. Sometimes keeping up feels like a Sisyphean task.
Well, this morning I finished Bowlaway. I enjoyed it, but it's not without flaws. It seemed to run out of steam in the latter third. I feel like I say that about a lot of modern "literary" novels these days. They are great at the micro level, wonderful sentences, and often have great characters (as this book did). But they're missing something at the macro level, like an intriguing plot or a point, even. It's like they're long short stories instead of crafted novels.
In any case, Bowlaway was good if you accept it on that level. McCracken can really write a wonderful sentence and she has lots of small insights. I loved the quirky characters. But in the end, a bunch of stuff happened and then the book stopped. If you know what I mean....
I'm still working my way through this years shortlist of the Tournament of Books. (Which is all "literary" novels, what am I thinking?) Now reading Milkman, which right away is very stylized, but at the same time, I'm kind of digging it. It's stream of consciousness, which is not everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoy getting into the rhythm of a character's thoughts. I am not going to expect a story, tho, lol.
Ok, I got about half way through Milkman, and while I admire what it is doing, I just can't go on. The oppression is weighing me down, and I just need an escape more than social enlightenment. It really sucked to live in Belfast in the 1970's.
I didn't really love Ancillary Justice, and didn't read the other two, but I like the author enough to try her standalone fantasy (which I got super cheap), The Raven Tower. I think there should be more standalone fantasy, I don't always want to invest in several books, especially if they are expected to be 1,000 pages long (I'm looking at you, Brandon Sanderson).
>64 littlegeek: I agree with you on standalone fantasy. I'd definitely read more, or at least try more, books/authors if it didn't feel like I had to commit to several thousands of pages before arriving at some kind of resolution.
Of course, fantasy isn't really my favourite genre, so the threshold is rather steep.
Minor spoiler alert ahead (extremely minor, I'd say - anyone who have read beyond the opening paragraphs would know what I am referring to...)
The Raven Tower I felt to be a fair step away from what she'd previously written, while at the same time being a natural next step, if that makes any sense. Looking back all her main characters has been somewhat enigmatic, and this one even more so. And I think maybe the fantasy genre allowed her to explore that in a more innovative way than her previous sf permitted, were sentient machines/avatars, et al, has become norm rather than the exception.
Definitely agree with you both about standalones - for any genre really. On the other hand I can see the appeal to authors and publishers for series. And when I really love a world/characters I want to read more of them....
A tagmash of fantasy and standalone is https://www.librarything.com/tag/fantasy,+standalone and I've read (and recommend) most of the top hits.
>65 Busifer: Exactly. I have indulged in many series and enjoyed them (especially Robin Hobb's Elderings series), but sometimes I just don't want a long commitment.
As for The Raven Tower, I know exactly what you mean and at this point it's intriguing...
>66 reading_fox: I do read a lot of fantasy and have read many of those titles, but it's great to have such a convenient list. Thanks!
Finished The Raven Tower. I enjoyed it very much. One thing I really liked was that by the end
Last night I borrowed News of the World because MrsLee liked it and that's enough recommendation for me! Haven't started it yet, tho.
>One thing that I was confused about was that it seemed like
So, Libby sent me 3 books from my holds all at once, even though a few days ago it showed them a staggered. Oh, well, I will read them as fast as I can. Too much sports lately, tho. OMG those SHARKS!
>78 littlegeek: Our lot have been painful this year; lose every home match and win overseas. Useless!
>79 hfglen: My baseball team (Giants) is similarly hapless this year. I feel you.
Finished News of the World and I was crying at work. What a sweet story. Plus, I have an affinity for Westerns, anyway. Thank you, MrsLee, that was a good one.
OK, now I have to try to get through the 2 books that landed at once from the library (I sent one back because there's no way). Next will be My Sister, the Serial Killer byOyinkan Braithwaite. It won the Tournament of Books, so it's gotta be good, right?
Finished The Great Believers. I wish I liked it more. It's kind of hard to criticize a story about the AIDS crisis, but the characters weren't well developed (I kept getting the male characters confused) so the tragedy didn't land for me as well as it could. Also, there was a lot of detail about a deal procuring some art for a gallery and I found it soooo boring I almost bailed.
Now reading There, There by Tommy Orange.
There, There was ok. Some first novel issues, but he writes well so I would read something by this author again.
Now reading Titus Groan and LOVING IT! It's so up my alley, I have no idea why I have not read it before. Feeling grateful.
Finished Titus Groan and what a great book! Hard to categorize, full of incredible imagery, quirky characters, and strange goings on. I love authors that really know how to do description (a dying art). I can see Gormenghast castle in my mind's eye so clearly.
Anyhoo, I will definitely be reading the other two books, but I have a library hold to read: The Overstory by Richard Powers. I see what he is going for here, but I remain skeptical that it's working. Reading on, tho.
I think I'll save the other Gormenghast books for my vacation next month.
>86 littlegeek: That Gormenghast trilogy is getting higher and higher on my TBR.
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