"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Human Croquet

TITLE: Human Croquet
AUTHOR: Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson has been one of my favorite authors for a while now, and since I started reading her books after she'd published a few, I went back and read this earlier tale, which reminded me of her more recent work Life After Life in its time bending structure. It's almost as if this book was a test run for that, yet this stands on its own with its own special take on the flexibility of time.

Isobel Fairfax is an ordinary 16-year-old girl living an ordinary life in 1960, yet somehow, she can slip into the past for brief glimpses of her hometown as it was. Isobel and her older brother have been haunted for most of their lives by the disappearance of their mother when they were young, and Isobel's brother in particular, has been obsessed in recreating her, grasping at any artifact or clue as to who she was or where she is, while Isobel would prefer to regain their mother as a whole entity. Instead, they must contend with their father, Gordon, who returned to them after an absence of seven years; a cranky aunt; and a stepmother with odd obsessions. But how well does Isobel know the adults in her life? Who were they and, more importantly, how did they all come to this place in their lives?

The story unfolds as a historical treatise, starting with the formation of all things, then a brief chronology of the area of England the Fairfaxes have called home, an area William Shakespeare is said to have visited, ending with Gordon's early years, before returning to alternating timelines of present and the past, a past when Gordon, returned from WWII, brought home his bride, Eliza. Family secrets abound as Isobel seeks answers to life's mysteries and her own family's.

As always when I read one of Atkinson's books, I got caught up with the characters and their lives. They're fully realized people, warts and all, and by the end of the book, not everything is what I thought it was, and it's not too many books that can fool me and take my breath away as this one did. I hate saying too much because I'd hate to ruin a wonderful, surprising, amazing, ultimately uplifting, yet poignant reading experience this book is.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Reader Quiz

BuzzFeed thinks it can guess where you live based on your reading preferences. I got New England as a result, which isn't bad, though NY is a Mid-Atlantic State. But so many of the question choices were not the ones I would have preferred, especially my favorite type of protagonist. "Quirky and dysfunctional" wasn't an option.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Goblin Emperor

TITLE: The Goblin Emperor
AUTHOR: Katherine Addison

Katherine Addison is the new pen name for Sarah Monette who wrote the wonderful Labyrinthine series, so I had high hopes for this. It's well written, for starters. Addison's prose is most readable. The story is told from the pov of the title character, a half-breed (elf-goblin) teen whose father, the emperor, and all his half-brothers are killed in a suspicious accident. Maia, living in exile with a guardian after his mother died, as his father's remaining heir, is brought to the capital and elevated to emperor despite having no training in the affairs of court and not knowing who he can trust. Thus begins a fish-out-of-water tale as Maia begins his on-the-job training while also trying to discover who killed his father and brothers and while others are plotting against him. It sounds great. If only more of that got on to the page.

Being all told from Maia's pov, we see only what he sees and does and that's mostly affairs of court, which isn't really my thing despite being competently written. And though there is some mention of tension between elves and goblins, there's not a whole lot of fantasy going on in the book. There is some actual action, which made me wish for more of it, and then it ends rather nicely, setting up the universe for more stories.

The lack of much of anything really going on made this an easy book to put down and I think it took me as long to read it as it took me to read all 5 published Song of Ice and Fire books combined. If this sort of book is your thing, you'll probably enjoy it. Maia is a pleasant, likable character and the prose moves along nicely without a hitch. I just don't think this sort of book is my thing.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Books I Won't Read

This post intrigued me: "Ten Books We'd Probably Never Read," over on The Broke and Bookish.

So, here are 10 books I haven't read and have no plans to ever read, in no particular order.

  1. Fifty Shades of Grey. It's fine that there are people who love it, but it's not for me, and not just because of the subject. I've read that it's poorly written, too. Not something I plan to spend time on when there are plenty of other books to read, including plenty of erotic ones. 
  2. Gone with the Wind. Yeah, I know. It's a classic. But I never did read it and I think the ship has sailed on this one for me.
  3. The Vampire Lestat and other books by Anne Rice. I had the series for years before I decided to take a look at them. I can usually get hooked on a book that interests me by skimming it. It didn't work for me with these.
  4. Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I barely heard of them when I was growing up, preferring science fiction to fantasy. Now that I've seen the movies, unlike with "Game of Thrones" that led me to devour "The Song of Ice and Fire" books, I have no interest in Tolkien's books. The movies were fine.
  5. Harry Potter series. What I said about Tolkien's books above applies to these, too. Watching the movies was sufficient.
  6. Outlander series. I watched the first half of the first season of the series but lost interest after the second half of the season started. Which tells me I probably shouldn't bother with the books.
  7. Anything by Joyce Carol Oates. I tried one of her books, didn't get past page 2. So boring.
  8. Anything by Hemingway. I had to read one of his books in high school. I got up to page 7 or 8 before I quit and faked my way through the classwork.
  9. The Great Gatsby. Yeah, another classic. People love it. It never interested me, and it was never assigned in my classes, so I lucked out. 
  10. Vanity Fair. This classic was assigned in other classes, but not in mine. I always meant to read it on my own, the way I did with so many classics, but in the past, many decades, I've never gotten around to it. I think this is another case of too late.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Reading List

Well, I read one of these 16 Books to Read and Love Forever. And I want to read at least 3 or 4 of the others. So that's good, right? For the record, the one I read is The House of Sand and Fog.