Monkey makes the attempt in 2019
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Let's just start off with the dirty truths: I make no promises about maintaining my thread or posting in anyone else's, my track record speaks for itself (oops), but I will try to come around more often, and if nothing else, just post titles with a line or two about how well I liked it or whatnot. Keyword there being try because, um, yeah. >_> Well anyhow. Now that that's out of the way!
It is 2019 and despite all past failures, lmao, I am trying once more! Last year I had plenty of slumps but I managed to finish out the year with 85 books read, woo! I think I probably did not do super great at the keep SWMs from dominating the list, but I don't know the final counts and honestly if I wait to figure them out, god knows when I will get around to posting! XD I know I did blow by my nonfic goal and I passed my translated goal by a few, though I did read 6 in a favorite series back-to-back which padded the number a bit... heh. Anyway, I did pretty good overall, and here's hoping I can do the same this year again! I think I will maintain my same goals except increasing the nonfic to 10 like the translated.
read at least:
• 65 books, including:
• 20 1001 list titles
• 10 translated
• 10 nonfic
• try to keep SWMs from excessive majority
Read in 2019
1. The real Lolita: the kidnapping of Sally Horner - Sarah Weinman ★★★☆☆
2. Mamushka: recipes from Ukraine & beyond - Olia Hercules ★★★★½
3. Williwaw - Gore Vidal ★★★★½
4. Wagner the werewolf - GWM Reynolds ★★★★☆
5. Two Spanish picaresque novels - anon, Quevedo ★★★☆☆
Pages read: 1211
(numbers link to the review post)
Acquired in 2019
These first ones are small due to being bought last year but getting shipped to mom, who hadn't sent a box for a while, then customs held it for 1.5mos, so I didn't technically get them till Jan, so they're officially 2019 but...
1. The real Lolita: the kidnapping of Sally Horner and the novel that scandalized the world - Sarah Weinman ★★★☆☆
4-6 Jan; ©2018; 262p; nonfic - true crime(?)
Why I acquired it: As an avid Nabokov fan, I was intrigued when I saw this.
Why I read it now: I ordered it a few months ago - delivered to mom, so it just finally got to me on the 3rd, and, again, loving Nabokov, I was eager to dive right into this.
Thoughts: I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed by this. Weinman seems bent on setting Nabokov up as some sort of villain for having gotten some inspiration out of this tragic real-life situation, when even she herself admits that he had been working on the novel for several years before Sally was abducted, as well as building up to it for many more years prior in several of his earlier works. I couldn't say what she possibly has against him, but she tries repeatedly to portray him in the worst possible light. All she succeeds in doing, is irking me with her behavior, not his. Basically, she seems to believe that because he did not shout from the rooftops I have borrowed pieces of little Sally Horner's terrible ordeal!! that he has somehow stolen her story and, I don't even know what. Except, while it's clear he did use parts of it for inspiration, what makes Lolita, Lolita, is the fact that he was a brilliant writer and he gave complete life to Humbert and his story. Had he merely written some genre-fic thriller about a pedophile kidnapping, it would be an incredibly different book and nothing like his masterpiece. So, yeah, her attitude was incredibly frustrating and really just tainted the book for me. Then, there's also the fact that it feels like there wasn't enough substance for a whole book (this originally started as an article that was then expanded on) and so she tried to pad it out with extraneous info that has no bearing on anything. History of the town itself, some random mass shooting that happened there, light backstories on some lawyers and detectives working the case... it just really doesn't come together properly; she'd have been better off making a somewhat shorter book sticking to the relevant info. By the way, I think I feel most comfortable classing this as true-crime, because that's what the bulk of it, in fact, is; and while I like true-crime books that is not really what I was expecting given the title/subtitle of the book. Basically the title comes off feeling rather like clickbait.
On the positive side, the writing itself was fine, and I am glad to have learned about Sally's awful ordeal and tragically short life, plus a small bit about Nabokov's penning of the Lolita.
In all, this is not a book I'd really suggest anyone go read, unless they are a die-hard fan and haven't discovered this history elsewhere.
2. Mamushka: recipes from Ukraine & beyond - Olia Hercules ★★★★½
7 Jan; ©2015; (80p); nonfic - cookbook
Why I acquired it: I love cookbooks, I have Ukrainian heritage, it looked gorgeous, and it was a reduced price from the Boekenfestijn ;)
Why I read it now: I've decided to join the little challenge thing over in Cookbookers so I started going through my cookbooks, beginning with this one!
Sidenote: Usually I wouldn't consider a cookbook as being "read" (or "unread"), since that's not really what they tend to be like, however, as each recipe comes with some text, and I browsed through everything soaking it all in, I'm counting it! ;P However, instead of counting the ~235p, I'm only counting it as 80 in my total.
Thoughts: This has got to be one of the most gorgeous cookbooks I've encountered. The pages are thick sturdy paper, and nearly every single page has at least one photo if not more, in color, excellently shot and excellently arranged. Every recipe begins with a paragraph (some shorter, some longer), with a brief mention of what the dish is like and either some memory Olia has related to it or some other little familial tidbit about it. The recipes all look excellent and while some take a little more work, all are very straight-forward.
One thing to note, this is Eastern European food, so it's pretty meat-heavy (though there are a handful of the mains without, and some others that can be adapted), and it also would not be recommended for those who are GF/low-carb, as a good amount of the recipes use some sort of standard flour dough (bread, pastry, pasta, dumplings, etc).
But I have to say, vegetarian that I am, this book is a favorite to me in spite of the meat-heaviness. It's just an amazingly lovely book that I'm delighted to have on my shelf.
3. Williwaw - Gore Vidal ★★★★½
8 Jan; ©1946; 182p; historical fic - WWII, military, sailors
Why I acquired it: When I read Vidal's Creation back in 2013 I had never heard of him before, but had bought it because it sounded interesting and suited a challenge I was doing, and I fell in love. Since then I have been steadily accumulating his works, and I put one on my TBR Challenge every year.
Why I read it now: I prefer to read an author's work chronologically, for various reasons. So for this year's TBR I decided it was time to go to the beginning!
Thoughts: To think that this was Vidal's first book, and at such a young age... just amazing. I was hooked from the get-go and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. This was actually one of the earliest WWII stories published, and it was definitely deserving. The narration style feels very "run of the mill," as in, this is just what the life of a sailor entails nothing noteworthy to see here, just relaying the facts, sort of deal. The fact that it's about a massive freak storm that could easily have wound up in the sinking of the ship, among other incidents, only makes the style choice that much more interesting. It works impeccably well, and only serves to confirm that Vidal was always destined to be the master writer he became!
Welcome Monk. But what’s an SWM?
>7 .Monkey.: I’m curious about Vidal. I tried an audiobook once and found it ok, quirky. And I own Creation, but of course have not read it.
>5 .Monkey.: Ridgewaygirl pointed me to the article The Real Lolita came out of and that was terrific, but I think I’ll skip the padded book version. I have in mind focusing in Nabokov in 2020...seems a long way off just now, but just thinking and these reviews are a good mental primer.
>8 dchaikin: Sorry, I've used the abbreviation the past couple years and forget not everyone is in my brain XD it's straight white males. :)
You should definitely read Vidal! And yes, he can certainly be quirky. Did you, perhaps, listen to Myra Breckinridge, or its sequel, Myron? They're interesting, and I think the way he tried to push the line was great, but they're definitely not his best work, haha. Creation, though, oh man, you should pick it up! <3
I could totally see the article being good, but yeah, would suggest passing on the padding, heh.
Nabokov is really something else. He truly was brilliant with language, in a way that is insanely rare. The things he could do with it...! There is just something so different in reading him.
Glad to see you here, .Monkey. Always interesting to see what you are reading.
I always take a photo of my TBR Challenge "pile" for my thread, so sharing it here too just because ;P
>12 ELiz_M: It is almost a given that I will, I make a solid effort at my TBR Challenge, I don't think I've ever finished with less than 18 or 19 of them done, and that's definitely not one that will get put off. :) I will make sure to report in! :D
>11 .Monkey.: I loved The Terror—just one of those right-place-right-time books for me. But it was also seriously atmospheric, and I still think about it now and then some ten years after I first read it.
4. Wagner the werewolf - George WM Reynolds ★★★★☆
8-12 Jan; ©1847; 483p; fic - Gothic, suspense, horror, supernatural
Why I acquired it: I have an affinity for the old Gothic stories, and fortunately for me, Wordsworth Editions makes super cheap editions of the old classic public domain works, so I have a nice handful of them. :D
Why I read it now: It was one of the somewhat more "random" picks for my TBR Challenge. I have a section of these "Tales of mystery and the supernatural" titles and I tend to pick one up each year.
Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this. As is clearly gleaned from the title, the titular character is a werewolf, but oddly enough it really plays like much more minor of a detail than one would figure. A somewhat surprising number of characters get their moments in the spotlight, as opposed to following a mere one or two; there's a decent handful that have a good amount of space for themselves, which doesn't always work out very well, but in this case I enjoyed it. Reynolds does a good job at creating very different characters with their own motivations and sets of moral codes. There are some various other small bits of the supernatural, plenty of Gothic-style romance, plots, and intrigue, and multiple levels of mystery to unravel.
The night was dark and tempestuous – the thunder growled around – the lightning flashed at short intervals – and the wind swept furiously along, in sudden fitful gusts.Sure, it's Gothic, so naturally some parts are a little exaggeratedly over-the-top, and there's a few right-place-right-time moments that are a little too excessively convenient. And I did also notice a couple times where Reynolds apparently forgot a (very minor) thing he'd written (e.g. at one point there's an abduction, a weapon was on the person but unable to get at before being grabbed and obviously removed after - it would have been lost, but later in the book they are getting prepared, and lo, this weapon is part of the attire), but since it was written as a serial first I can imagine it's easy for small details to slip by. In any case none of this little stuff is enough to take away from the intriguing story and vivid characters.
Also of note, Reynolds was very anti-Christian (basically for the same reason many are today, the hypocrisy, judgment etc) and was a confirmed atheist. He included a Jew, which at first mention made me wince, money-lending Jews in old stories is normally BADBADBAD!, however, I was happily astonished to see him represented as a good kind man, and he even gives a wonderful speech at one point, which was, it turns out, because Reynolds very pro-Jew. He was also apparently an admirer of the Muslim empire, which given some of the things in this story isn't quite as clearly painted, however, he did include a lot dealing with them and it wasn't negative, just, more ambiguous. He also wrote strong independent women characters, and about the plight of the poor - placing the blame where it actually belonged. All this in the 1800s! Amusingly, while being a voice for the underdogs, he was seemingly incredibly arrogant and unpleasant and pretty much got along with no one for very long. But hey, you can't win 'em all! ;) I am definitely a fan.
>17 .Monkey.: While I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy this book, I thoroughly enjoyed your review.
>18 rhian_of_oz: Haha, crazy old Gothics aren't for everyone, but it was a lot of fun! XD
I've never heard of Reynolds but it sounds like that book is higher quality than the average gothic horror of the time. It was interesting to read the details about him in your review. I'm also interested to see the Joseph Heller book in your TBR pile. I've only read Catch-22 years ago and for some reason it's never even occured to me to look up what else he wrote. Looking forward to following along with your reading for as long as you post it!
>21 valkyrdeath: Yeah, Catch-22 is one of my favorite books of all time, so I snagged a couple of his others I've stumbled on in used bookshops and such, but not yet read them. The only other thing of his I've read so far was the sequel, but he really just wrote it under publisher pressure (and possibly he needed a bit of of funds himself as well), and it shows. It's not bad but it's not remotely of the same caliber as Catch-22, sadly. I have more hope for the others, though, as they're not trying to be anything in particular like that one was.
5. Two Spanish picaresque novels: Lazarillo de Tormes, and The swindler - anon, Francisco de Quevedo ★★★☆☆
13-15 Jan; ©1554 & ©1608; 204p; fic - picaresque
Why I acquired it: It was a random used bookstore buy. It caught my eye due to being a work in translation, of which the originals were quite old (hence it was seemingly a worthwhile title else why would they be publishing it centuries later?), and the back blurb also made it sound a bit interesting.
Why I read it now: I'm reading Ayn Rand's We the living, and wanted to break it up some, so I decided to grab this off the shelf.
Sidenote: So before we get to my thoughts, I figured it would be useful in case anyone, like myself, was unfamiliar with the picaresque. As my introduction says, "The word picaresque derives from the Spanish pícaro, which means rascal or crafty good-for-nothing, and is used to describe the hero of a similar novel, Guzmán de Alfarache (1599)." The word "hero" is rather a misnomer, seeing as the lead characters are basically thieving rascals. Lazarillo de Tormes is the first ever picaresque novel, and it was quite the change from the in-vogue chivalrous novels of the time (you know, those novels Don Quixote satirized), and the book was quite popular and actually banned by the Inquisition.
Thoughts: Well, I can't say that I loved this. The novels (or rather, novellas) were interesting to read, in that they're basically a piece of history, but of themselves, I was not so enamored. To me, they were essentially a much shorter and less amusing version of Don Quixote. Because, Quixote is practically a rascal himself, but through imbecility and ignorance rather than choice like a pícaro, which serves to make him both more entertaining and less of a jerk. The style is episodic (again like Don Quixote), so they're really not like a novel with a plot, but rather, each chapter is some incident or short time period spent in company with a specific person/group, where bad things happen to the "hero."
I've no reason to believe he wasn't telling the truth because if there was any house in the kingdom that had the right to be free of mice, it was that one, because they don't usually go where there isn't a thing to eat. Again he looked for nails around the house and pulled bits of wood from the walls to stop up the hole. When night came and he was asleep I got up with my little knife and opened up every hole that he had stopped during the day. So it went on and we followed each other so quickly that we must have been the originators of the proverb which says, "Where one hole is closed another opens."Lazarillo is quite short at about 55 pages, and it ends quite abruptly. El buscón (the proper Spanish title of The swindler is La vida del buscón, which is how it's referred to and just sounds less awkward to me) is longer at about 130 pages, and the writing is smoother. However, the intro does point out that Lazarillo has "only about 20,000 words and every one of them counts. The descriptions are pithy and economical, the language colloquial though not ephemeral. This is artistry artfully concealed," and I can see there being something to that. But, it's written basically like a letter to someone, and finishes telling about a last situation, of which the final sentence of the last paragraph is simply "I will inform Your Honor of my future in due course." And that's it. That's the end of the book. Out of nowhere.
Dear Reader, may God protect you from bad books, police, and nagging, moon-faced, fair-haired women.Meanwhile, El buscón flows better throughout, with a more steady timeline and not-so-abrupt ending. I think there were also more notably amusing moments, but given that it's nearly triple the length, it'd be unfair to hold that against Lazarillo. Even so, those aspects did make for a bit of a nicer read. That said, the back blurb calls it a "scatological adventure," and that's no lie. This book is repeatedly gross and the characters often exceedingly nasty and cruel, making me rather glad to live a few hundred years distant from them!
Hardly anybody in business has a conscience, because they've heard it's likely to get in your way, so they leave it behind with their umbilical cords when they're born.So, overall, I might suggest the quick trip through Lazarillo to get a notion of this old famous novel type, but personally I would not be jumping to recommend the picaresque novel as a genre to someone simply looking for a fun time. Reader beware! ;)
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