This month seems to involve a bit of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” So many pretty books, so many fantastic reviews and summaries, so many disappointing reading experiences.
But don’t worry, it’s not all bad. I found a couple of good reads in there as well!
Let’s get started:
Astonish Me – Maggie Shipstead – 3* – (Mar. 5):
This book first caught my attention in a review somewhere. And I loved the cover. The summary promised a look into the darker side of the professional ballet world, which intrigued me. However, this book contained so much ballet, which is something I know nothing about and have no interest in knowing anything about. Oops! The story is told in an asynchronous format that didn’t serve much purpose to me, other than perhaps the return to past at the very end. Jumping around as it did, I felt I often missed crucial bits of character development – often characters would have abrupt changes from one bit section to the next. I didn’t overly feel for any of the characters, perhaps because of this. Shipstead did, however, provide a compelling look at how it must feel to dedicate your entire life to something you feel so passionate about only to realize that you’ll never have the skill or talent to be anything more than a support character or member of the chorus. Role definition, in this way, was very strongly portrayed within the story and kept me reading through to the end.
The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide – 2* – (Mar. 10):
Another book with a fabulous synopsis and great reviews. Not to mention the cover of the edition I received (pictured at left) is beautiful with green foil accents. This novella was originally written in Japanese by a man more known for his poetry than prose and may have lost something in translation. I didn’t find the style as lyrical as I expected, nor was the story very interesting. It did offer an interesting look into Japanese life and culture. The book read as if it could’ve been nonfiction, certainly as it pertained to living “with” a cat, but I never connected with any of the characters, including Chibi the kitty.
The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad #2) – Tana French – 4.75* – (Mar. 16):
After a few misses, I needed a hit. I read the first book in this loose series by Tana French last June and enjoyed her writing style. I immediately bought the next three books and am waiting until book #5 is available in paperback before I snatch it up as well. I’ve been saving the next books for a situation like this when I needed a good read. This book delivered on every level. There was murder and deceit and mistaken identity and office politics and relationships without the icky girly romance crap. Perfection, all come to a head with a big showdown at the end (that’s no spoiler, you know it’s coming from early on in this book). There was also some implausibility and a few questions were left unanswered, but I was all-in for the ride so I only deducted .25 stars.
Through the Woods – Emily Carroll – 3* – (Mar. 16):
My first graphic novel and I’ve been so excited about this book and the genre. First, the cover is absolutely gorgeous – what you don’t realize from seeing it online is that it’s textured and feels so rich to hold. The illustrations inside add to the chill factor – definitely click through to Amazon and click to “look inside” – it’s worth it. It took me only an hour or so to read through the book, and I found myself disappointed overall. Though the stories and illustrations were meant to be creepy, I never really felt it. I did enjoy a couple of the stories, especially “A Lady’s Hands are Cold,” but my resounding feeling was one of being underwhelmed. I’m not sure if it was this particular book or if it’s that I’m not into graphic novels (I was never into comic books either) so I’ll try another before writing off the genre altogether.
Euphoria – Lily King – 2.5* – (Mar. 20):
Yet another case of a gorgeous cover, amazing reviews (and rewards!), and an exciting synopsis resulting in bleh. Set in the 1930s, anthropologists are studying the native peoples of New Guinea. Bankson, an Englishman, was so isolated he was about to commit suicide. Nell and Fen, recently married and planning to head for Australia after leaving a post with a very violent tribe, run into Bankson and he convinces them instead to take a post in his area. The only character I had strong feelings for was Fen — his envy of Nell, his lack of cooperation when it came to taking notes and studying the people, his later self-serving actions because of his motivations to have something of his own that would stand up against her success as a published author. I had to skim the last 1/3 of the book just to finish it.
My edition was horribly outdated (pictured left) so I’ve linked to the most recent edition, which is still 2008. I had it on my shelf so I flipped through about 100 pages of it quickly. It does list some interesting options for careers that may not have occurred to you before if you like reading and are looking for ideas. There wasn’t anything here that was a big surprise to me, though it was nice to see them try to classify expectations regarding education for each position.
Faithful Place – Tana French – 4.25* – (March 25):
Frustrated by another couple of “meh” reads and envious of my friend Jenny who just finished reading “Faithful Place,” I couldn’t resist the pull of this book. It was sitting on my shelf, calling for me. And French delivered yet again. That said, this is probably the least favorite of the three titles I’ve read from her, but that’s like saying brownies with no chips are my least favorite compared to brownies with peanut butter chips or chocolate chips. She’s set the bar so high, even my least favorite of her books is going to trump almost anything else. Regarding the story, the main character here is Frank Mackey and I wasn’t a big fan of him in the previous book. I still found him belligerent and obnoxious most of the time here as he investigated the death of his girlfriend, which occurred 22 years ago. Family drama dominated the story, perhaps a bit too much for my tastes, though it was relevant. Great read again from French and hopefully I can resist the temptation of book #4 for awhile.
She Left Me the Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Me – Emma Brockes – 2.5* – (March 30):
This book is a memoir about an English journalist who digs into her mother’s life in South Africa before her birth. Much like my own family, nobody speaks much to/of the living so most of the past is uncovered territory. The story fell flat for me in that it never delivered the promised drama – all of the information was easily available, especially for someone with the kind of skills available to an experienced reporter. She reconnected with her family, many of whom were kind people, ready to welcome her and discuss various bits of the past. It wasn’t a bad read; it just wasn’t overly interesting.
The idea is to write the story of your life in only six words. It’s an interesting challenge, to be that succinct in summarizing your entire existence. Yet some of the entries manage to be very poignant, humorous, or even shattering. A few of my favorites:
- Born at 23, childhood doesn’t count. (Krissy Karol)
- Became more like myself every year. (Eddie Sulimirski)
- Thought long and hard. Got migraine. (Lisa Levy)
- Grew up quiet, learned to yell. (Ana Cruz)
What’s great is that I’m sure I can pick this book up again at some point in the future and it will be different entries that will resonate with me. Smith Magazine has an entire site devoted to Six Word Memoirs if you’d like to check them out online.
I read 9 books this month, for a total of 22. I’m more than 50% of the way to my 40-book goal for the year. Craziness.
As to what I’m reading. I read my first graphic novel ever, which inconclusive results. One memoir, one professional book, one novella, one “other” (Six-Word Memoirs), four novels.
Out of curiosity, I thought I’d take a look at how my ratings are stacking up because I feel like I’ve had a lot of “meh” reads. This is based on the flat stars Goodreads displays in list-view, not the quarter-star system I assign in my reviews.
- 5 stars: 3 books (including one re-read)
- 4 stars: 11 books (that’s half of my books for the year)
- 3 stars: 4 books
- 2 stars: 3 books
- 1 star: 0 books (not sure why I don’t use this rating more often)
- 0 stars: 1 book (book I edited but didn’t rate)
Maybe it’s just the run I’ve been on lately hasn’t been amazing.
Also, I thought I’d do a quick count of male vs. female authors since March was National Women’s History Month and I was sadly unaware until yesterday. I’ll admit I don’t pay much attention to the gender of writer when I pick a book up despite a lot of readers I follow online making a conscious effort to read more female writers. Still, I’m happy to find that of the 22 books I’ve read this year, 17 are by female authors. Yeah me!
One last stat – pages read.
- January – 2010
- February – 2166
- March – 2419
Total is 6595 pages for the year.
Also, my birthday was last week, which meant a trip to the bookstore where I picked up three books for myself, and my husband decided to go a little nuts on my Amazon Wishlist, buying me seven books. Happy birthday to me!
Thoughts on any of these books? Could you sum up your life in six words? How about: So many books, not enough hours?