Tag Archives: literature

50 Book Challenge: April update (13/50) and reviews

April was a much more productive than February and March, since I made a point to read several less-than-900-page books, Murakami. (Why am I so mad tho? I read it on purpose, after all.) Now I am only three books behind schedule instead of five. Without forcing this challenge upon myself, I know I would not be anywhere close to 50 books this year. Goodreads has been so helpful in keeping track of my progress. However, I have made it a point not to read any reviews on books prior to reading the books or writing these reviews here. Several times I have found my opinion actually does change with issues pointed out by certain reviewers. I don’t know how common that is, but I think of it as a discussion where I approach subjects with an open mind: willing to hear the other side, and taking into consideration many points while still questioning their validity. Regardless, I don’t have all the time in the world to read many thousands of reviews, so my opinions don’t change that much from their base. Subjectivity is the name of the game. Bringin’ it:

9. The Magician King by Lev Grossman:  Why am I struggling to write this review? I was really engaged in part two of Grossman’s series, and of course I want to read the next installment immediately before I stop caring, but it won’t be out for another year or so. Anyway, this book. The tone is quite casual, which I enjoyed continuing after the prior heaviness of 1Q84. We pick up with the snarky protagonist a few years after the first book ends, and he is just as dissatisfied as always. This point of view gets old, and we get reprieve when we get POV back story on another character, spliced in to the present narrative. I enjoyed the back story but it did drag a little bit, perhaps because the pacing was not as much go-go-go as the other. The ending made me so angry. Anticlimactic and teasing and just horrible. Rated 3/5 because I couldn’t put it down despite the negatives.

10. Dearly Devoted Dexter (Dexter #2) by Jeff Lindsay: I had read Darkly Dreaming Dexter (#1) about two years back and enjoyed it, as I had watched the show pretty religiously  until after season 6. (We stopped paying for cable around that time to save money.) The first book differentiated from the first season enough to be interesting, and book two is an entirely different story altogether than the show. Despite the handful of stretches in plot that I had trouble finding believable, I read this in 12 hours. The Dexter-isms are always perfect, that cocky, raised-eyebrow wittiness in the heat of a situation that would turn stomachs of most. Plus, I am always down for some good gory details. Alliteration aside, 4/5.

11. Dexter in the Dark (Dexter #3) by Jeff Lindsay: Another fast read, as these books are paced quite nicely for the most part… perfect for a casual weekend read, or for someone attempting to make up for lost time in a book challenge. Same love for the style and feel of all Dexter books, though the subject matter on this one was a little bit of a stretch. I found the supernatural/biblical “antagonist” IT intriguing because, as I’ve said before, I give all books the benefit of temporary belief suspension, but this did not fit in with the Dexter canon at all. His cold, calculating logic – one of the things I love about the character – was pretty much gone for the majority of the book. This made for dragging passages about his struggle with having human-like emotions for the first time in his life. This might have been interesting if it were in a different setting – I’ve always felt Dexter would have had more? any? emotions surface when the truth of his Dark Passenger’s “birth” was revealed to him (and to be honest, I cannot remember what his reaction was during the first book). With his biological brother still on the run, there is a lot of untapped story that would make sense for Dexter to find a little humanity. Big bad IT scaring away an inferior shadow, leaving a void filled by feelings? Okay, Jeff. Whatever. I could speculate on motives, that Lindsay perhaps thought that Dexter needed a bit more of a human touch, a stray from his norm to break what felt like monotony in the author’s brain. I will not go further, and just give this book 2.5/5 stars, hoping the next books in the series are more believable for one of my favorite literary characters.

12. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: My favorite part of this book was the final chapter, “Historical Notes.” It was a fantastic way to wrap up the story, to remind us that nothing lasts forever. The narrative itself was intriguing, believable, though I agree with other reviewers that there were perhaps unnecessarily long moments of teasing by the author. Even after the book ended, Atwood held things back. Yet it made me itch for more, and quite a quick read. 4/5.

13. The Night Circus  by Erin Morgenstern: I loved Morgenstern’s flowery descriptions of the fantastical Cirque des Rêves, and it appears she enjoyed them herself. The book is packed with details, making visualization effortless. There are books that I feel are written with the hope, or perhaps the intention, of becoming movie adaptations. I enjoyed so much of the story, but I had issue with several things in hindsight. Long list ahoy: the protagonists’ relationship felt somewhat contrived; the point of the game – the point of the entire story – was a little bit lost on me; the game itself was not a competition in the least; and any urgency in causing the competition to end was thrown in without reason. Always in hindsight I end up hating a book more than I originally thought. You know, I really did like this book. I read it to the very last page in less than a week. My suspension of belief lasted only until I shut the book; then, my brain turned back on and remembered how to think critically. 4/5 initial rating, 3/5 hindsight.

May preview:

14.Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories by Alice Munro
15. Runaway by Alice Munro

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50 Book Challenge: February and March update (8/50) and reviews

These past two months have been super slow on my goal progress. Why? God damn Murakami and his 900+ page novel. I’ll just get right to the reviews.

6. In the Cities of Coin and Spice (The Orphan’s Tales #2) by Catherynne M. Valente: Part two of this series was just as beautiful as part one. I definitely recommend reading them immediately back-to-back, for the stories are all interconnected and impressively weaved together. If I had taken too much of a break in between these two, I feel I could have easily forgotten many important details from the first. As it stands, I think these deserve a re-read since they are so complex. I closed this book so very satisfied with the conclusion. Valente really knows how to craft a powerful story, but more importantly, she knows how to end that story. I rated both of these books 5 stars on Goodreads without hesitation.

7. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: What an undertaking this novel was. It took me 6 weeks and really pushed me back on my progress towards my goal. (Goodreads says I am now 4 books behind! Dammit!) Whatever, it was really good. Typical weird Murakami, strange fantasy intertwined with the real world. It kind of dragged, with lots of details and waiting and thinking, “Seriously we are still sitting in this apartment doing nothing?” When things happened, though, they happened, and it was engrossing overall. The only thing that bothered me, besides the pace, was that it seemed like he was kind of patting his own back at times. The novel involves a fantasy story written by a young girl,  not very well written so it has to be rewritten by an editor. The kicker is that her story actually happened, her characters and settings actually exist in a world within the novel. When he describes her story, he pretty much says, “If this was fiction, it would be one of the best and most imaginative things ever written,” but the fact remains that he fucking wrote it.  I mean, he is a genius and his little display of ego there won’t stop me from reading everything he’s written. 3.5/5.

8. The Magicians by Lev Grossman: This book has crazy mixed reviews, and I really should not read any more of them before providing my own. My initial reaction was simply this: enjoyment. I liked immersing myself in the belief that perhaps all these amazing fantasy worlds I’ve loved for years could be real. Perhaps that is childlike but that also seems to be the intention of Grossman. Did he present that idea with a pretentious, annoying, cocky, morose, egotistical protagonist? Sure. There were a lot of inherent issues with the novel but hey, I am reading the second one and liking it, too. So many times with reading I will gloss over things that bother me to get to the meat of the parts that I like, because I try to give things the benefit of the doubt. Either way, I had major feelings with a certain death at the end. 3.5?/5

**

April preview:

9. The Magician King by Lev Grossman
10. Legends II edited by Robert Silverberg

I have a long list of to-reads on my Goodreads account, so my next few books will be from that list. Surprises! They’re great!