Books Read in June, July, and August 2014

1 Sep

Summer was long, hot, and difficult resulting in comfort reads to the max. Let’s see how it went.

June

Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett

The Sandman: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling)

Blue Monday by Nicci French

Jingo by Terry Pratchett

The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner

Best Books: Terry Pratchett and his Discworld novels are a gift. I’ve especially been enjoying the guards’ narratives; this month’s best was Feet of Clay detailing mythical golems, murder, and an overall entertaining parable creatively incorporating social acceptance.

Mediocre Book: Blue Monday is the a series of murder mystery novels following psychotherapist Frieda Klein’s investigations with the London police. I say mediocre, but it’s an entertaining read (though the characters’ lack of dimension sink the series) and I admittedly read through the other books as well. Additionally, autumnal or winter detective stories in rainy settings are a summer favorite.

Rereads: I read wonderful the wonderful Sandman series’ A Game of You after dreaming about cuckoos. I read The Historian because I like what I like including this supernatural historical mystery.

July

Gather Together in My Name by Maya Angelou

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

The Sandman: World’s End by Neil Gaiman

City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin

Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe

Best Book: The Thirteenth Tale. This book had a ton of hype and deservedly so because oh shit this novel twists and turns and is a compelling Gothic.

Rereads: World’s End; The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; I Capture the Castle; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

August

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry like Christmas by Maya Angelou

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Mistress of My Fate: Confessions of Henrietta Lightfoot by Hallie Rubenhold

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

The Boggart by Susan Cooper

The Sandman: Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman

Best Book: I’m sure by now most readers are familiar with my love of delightful, anachronistically independent female protagonists and Mistress of My Fate: Confessions of Henrietta Lightfoot embodies escapist

Rereads: Harry Potters and the Order of the Phoenix; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince; The Lovely Bones; The Boggart; Fables and Reflections

August, man. Fuck August. Over 50% rereads because I think I temporarily stopped caring about everything. Oh, well.

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Books Read in March, April, and May 2014

17 Jun

SLACKERTOWN, USA

POPULATION: ME.

So we own a shiny new computer, which doesn’t have Microsoft because Bill Gates’ golden goose lays even more eggs as a subscription service. Oh woe, oh lost, oh 90s, 00s, etc. Since I doubt anyone really mourns the lack of pie charts aside from myself, I’ll very likely do some sort of graphic summary at the year’s end.

Anyway….

 

March:

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling)

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth

Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth

The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O’Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea by Barbara Sjoholm

 

Best Books: If you haven’t read Jennifer Worth’s memoirs of working as a midwife in 1950s East London or seen the BBC tv program “Call the Midwife” based on said memoirs, your life is infinitely less rich. Such a beautiful, moving portrayal of a transient era in a historically turbulent place.

Mediocre Book: Ugh, the Pirate Queen. Not so much a biography or non-fiction as historical instances interwoven with the author’s melodramatic narrative of her personal quest for a name change? Riddled with overwriting and mean, arrogant descriptions of ordinary (aka not on a grandiose quest) people, alas, despite the colorful anecdotes of seafaring women, I would not recommend this book.

Rereads: Ok, so one wild weekend, I awoke on Saturday really hungover and wanting to do nothing more than read an interesting tale in the dark sanctuary of my bedroom. So I read The Cuckoo’s Calling, which is so awesome and clever and I even realized the reasoning behind the title. The following Sunday morning, I awoke again to a hangover (it was a wild weekend, okay, Judgey McJudgerson, or, more likely, my mom) and, reluctant to leave modern London, I reread Her Fearful Symmetry.

P. S. Being either a Bronte person or an Austen person is such a false dichotomy. Having said that, I am totally a Bronte person.

 

April:

Women’s Poetry: Poems and Advice by Daisy Fried

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

Eric by Terry Pratchett

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

 

April was crazy, thus the short, short list. However, no rereads and each book was a great book!

With large delays in the Free Library’s hold system and much visiting family, I cast about our apartment for new reading material resulting in the delightful deluge of April and May (and June’s) Discworld novels. Although many of the books convey the same message, which is people/sentient beings need to have agency over their lives and decisions, each story is lovingly and creatively told. Women’s Poetry: Poems and Advice is at times funny, at times solemn, at times unbearably sharp book of poetry. Incidentally, Daisy Fried was the poet who judged my second prize poem in the Sandy Crimmins’ National Prize for Poetry. The Wives of Los Alamos documents in compelling second person narrative (which, in my experience, either enhances or detracts from a book) the uprooting and subsequent lives of the families of the scientists recruited to a desert town in New Mexico to work on the Manhattan Project. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings deserves its hype; currently, I reserved the second volume of Angelou’s biography through my bff, the Free Library.

 

May:

Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett

1913: The Year Before the Storm by Florian Illies

The Glass Ocean by Lori Baker

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

Philadelphia Fire by John Edgar Wideman

Redshirts by John Scalzi

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I read the hilarious Star Trek meta/parody Redshirts, which inspired me to read 1960s sci-fi classic set in the 1990s A Scanner Darkly, which inspired me to read 1960s sci-fi classic set in the 1990s Make Room! Make Room!, which recalled New York’s late 19th and early 20th century tenements so vividly, I reread A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Reading begets reading, yo. I also read this interesting article on The Toast analyzing Eight Cousins‘ Rose and Phoebe, prompting May’s first reread.

Thanks for reading, lovely readers!

Books Read in February 2014

3 Mar

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

The Lottery and Other Stores by Shirley Jackson

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

Selected Poems by T. S. Eliot

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

The Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Genre

Best Reads: Alright, so this is probably cheating but damn, does T. S. Eliot’s poetry gives me chills. I first discovered his work at age fifteen among some battered paperbacks that my aunt was donating and carried it in my purse for years, combing through the pages and reading and rereading these words.

There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

CHILLS. 

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
 

FUCKING. CHILLS.

Anyway, if you’re an Eliot fan, be sure to read the hilarious Texts from J. Alfred Prufrock. Read, too, The Wasteland combined with teenage commentary. You will regret nothing.

Shirley Jackson’s short stories are also wonderfully creepy and clever, like a literary Twilight Zone. Go read those, too.

And The Goldfinch is a really compelling read as well; totally lives up to the hype. The story also contains one of my favorite characters, Boris, who is simultaneously incredibly self-destructive and wide-eyedly optimistic and generally the best/worst.

Additionally, Hyperbole and a Half is flaw free.

I READ A LOT OF COOL SHIT THIS MONTH OKAY.

Mediocre read: In college, I enjoyed both Bridget Jones books of which I owned the British versions; these editions made the books more palatable as Bridget recorded her weight in stones, which is particularly medieval measurement and I’m still not entirely sure of the stones to pounds ratio. (Apparently in the USA editions, her weight fluctuates between like 130 and 138  pounds which is basically hovering around my ideal weight? Ugh.) Anyway, were you aware that there is a new Bridget Jones novel set in 2013? Well, there is and, like its predecessors, it’s of questionable quality. Highlight for spoilers: Oh my god Fielding killed off Mark Darcy and it was actually heartrending and I straight up wept. Aside from that, Bridget’s foibles and rapid weight loss are strangely sophomoric and although I didn’t hate it as it was weirdly reassuring to revisit familiar characters, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it either. So yeah, mediocre.

Sorry I’m not sorry is an overused phrase, but applies completely to this month’s reread, which was Eliot’s poems.

Yeah, counting Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half as nonfiction may be ever so slightly a stretch. Oh well. Let’s see how March fares.

Additionally,

White Authors: Authors of Color
7:2

Female Authors: Male Authors
7:2

I’m cool with reading more women than men as white male authors are definitely over-represented. For more information on those numbers and the importance of reading women, take a gander at this article which also details the Read Women 2014 project.

P. S. One of my poems won 2nd place in the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry and will be published in PhiladelphiaStories’ Spring magazine. Eee.

Books Read in January 2014

1 Feb

My literary goals:

Track what I read (out of curiosity)
Minimize my lazy habit of rereading books (ideally for self-improvement)
Read more nonfiction (definitely for self-improvement)

Let’s see how I’ve done so far…

Song of Susannah: Book VI in The Dark Tower series by Steven King (reread)

The Dark Tower: Book VII in The Dark Tower series by Steven King

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

Untold: The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2  Volumes 1 and 2 By J.K. Woodward  

The Debutante by Kathleen Tessaro

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About by Mil Millington

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (reread)

The Harlot’s Tale: A Midwife Mystery by Sam Thomas

The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel by Stephen King

The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming

genre

Some people think graphic novels don’t count, but I think those people should go fuck themselves.


Best Read:
You’ll note, dear reader, that my first book of January is the penultimate novel in the Dark Tower series. I originally read the Dark Tower novels when I was 15 and 16. However, at the time, I found Song of Susannah‘s demonic pregnancy trope so exhausting and King writing himself into the story as a character so irritating that I never read the final volume. In December, I decided to revisit the Dark Tower as an adult so I reread the first six novels and carried on into the new year. And shit, The Dark Tower as a conclusion is intense. Any book that leaves me sobbing on the subway during my commute has wound its way into my heart. I would definitely recommend this universe to anyone who enjoys gunslingers in a sci fi/fantasy dystopia.

Worst Read: Do you like weak characterization and dialogue riddled with dull, ugly gender stereotypes? Then you’re an asshole and would probably enjoy Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About. I read half of this book before abandoning it. Alas, one drunken night before bed, I read until I reached a mildly interesting point. (NB: Similar to one night stands, I often resume mediocre books  during bedtime while intoxicated as my intellectual expectations are lower and there is a 10% chance I won’t remember the plot anyway.) I later finished the last 100 pages (sober) and wished I had left the second half unfinished as originally planned. Conclusion: unhealthy and destructive relationships aren’t endearing and comical and sexism ain’t cute.

Unexpected Find: The Perfume Collector is a beautifully told story. I picked it up in the new arrivals at the library because I was attracted to its cover, she said superficially. Anyway, this novel contains two gorgeously woven tales crossing decades and continents, a mysterious bequest, and strong female characters so check it out if you like history/mystery/ladies. I then checked out The Debutante by the same author and the premise is similar (two tales from different eras bound by a common thread with a mystery plus women), but not as compelling as the The Perfume Collector.

Goal Two

This month’s rereads were justified; I read Song of Susannah as a continuation of the Dark Tower universe and I picked up The Secret History for 29 cents at Philly AIDS Thrift as a much-needed respite to Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About. Nevertheless, going to try not to lapse too, too much.

New Picture (1)

Clearly not doing well with my third goal.

So… anyone want to recommend some engaging nonfiction?

Additionally,

White Authors: Authors of Color
12:0

Female Authors: Male Authors
5:7

I usually have a fairly even divide between male and female writers; I think the disproportionate amount of Stephen King tipped January’s scales. However, I am less mindful about writers of color (and LGBT authors, too) so if anyone has recommendations, they would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers, all!

Caroline Criado-Perez

A Pox on the Patriarchy

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