The Harmony Silk Factory, by Tash Aw
I really like this book. It’s the story of a certain man told from the perspective of three different people in his life who knew him in vastly different ways. Except that it’s not.
I love stories that play with perspective and the idea of the unreliable narrator and this book does it well. I want to read it again immediately and reprocess it as I go with everyone’s view point in mind. This book will be a really good reread and I recommend it.
Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
This book was a hoot from beginning to end, and I don’t care how old that makes me sound. It was phenomenal. It’s funny and engaging and scary and weird and wonderful. My only complaint is that the British voice actor’s American accents were atrocious. But other than that I loved it. I listened to it three times in a row. Read. This. Book.
(I always feel bad when my good reviews are shorter than my bad reviews, but really I don’t have more to say than “it’s wonderful read it right now”)
The Listening Eye, by Patricia Wentworth
I bought this book because it was on sale for like 4 bucks, and the description led me to believe the protagonist was a deaf woman which I thought would be amazing, and I hoped it would be an Agatha Christie style whodunnit. I was severely disappointed. The character I took to be the protagonist was actually the first person to die. And she was the most interesting character in the book. The actual detective is unbearable. She’s this politely rude judgmental old woman whose “deductive powers” are that every always tells her everything relevant to the case because…she looks old? Or something? It’s basically written for stuffy middle aged women in the 50s who are obsessed with violence and sex but are too superiorly judgmental to admit it. this book provides them with both AND a main character who self-righteously doesn’t approve of all these young people dancing so much for them to identify with. I hated this book. It was a huge disappointment. That lady that died at the beginning would have been such a better book.
Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion
I love this book so much. The attitudes toward women are questionable and I’ll get to that in a minute but the writing is great. The main character/narrator is clever and funny. The story is good even if the ending maybe isn’t as unexpected as it wants to be. But this is one of those books where the meandering parts that have nothing to do with the story are the best parts of the whole book. And that is a huge compliment to those parts, not an insult to the rest of the book. There’s one passage in particular where the ghosts of the past mourn their post-apocalyptic decisions, and it is my favorite part of a book I 98% loved. It also makes me really happy that the author never really tries to explain why zombies are a thing. Narrator basically just occasionally says “eh, I dunno, I’m just a zombie” and moves on. I kinda have a thing for sci-fi books that don’t spend half the time trying to explain why the world is different and just let the world build itself through the story. Now on to the 2% of the book I didn’t love. It has a really weird relationship with women. The attitudes are so dated that I was surprised when a character pulled out an iPod because I thought the story was taking place late 80s/early 90s. Like, not an outright “women shouldn’t be able to drive” sexism but that weird sexism that insists it isn’t sexism while simultaneously enfantilizing women and idolizing their virtuosity. Weird, right? One character actually calls his girlfriend, who it is established he has had sex with at this point, “my little girl” and NO ONE ADDRESSES IT except for one line about her frowning about it. And the main character’s best friend is a zombie that only targets women and says eating their brains “is like porn to him.” And no one ever talks about how creepy that is! It’s not enough to make me dislike the book as a whole, but it’s enough to make me very wary of the author if I was ever in the same room with him. I would absolutely recommend this zombie romcom adventure to anyone and everyone to whom at least one of those genres appeals. Great book.
Bossypants, by Tina Fey
I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. Some parts were good, like when she talked about her childhood and her kids and her career, but there were several diatribes at the end that kind of lost me. I’m sure they were great and validating for people who agree with her exactly, but it left the book on an unfavorable last impression. When I think about it now what I remember is her talking about Sarah Palin for hours and going on a diatribe about how she likes Photoshop. I think I’m just not a big enough fan of hers for me to care. Maybe I just assumed I’d like her because I love Amy Poehler in Parks and Rec. Anyway, This book left absolutely no impression on me and I returned it as soon as I finished it.
The Casual Vacancy, by J. K. Rowling
So there was a lot of fuss when this book came out, so I’m just gonna go ahead and say that I liked it. Everyone I spoke to in person was indeed disappointed that it wasn’t the exact same as Harry Potter, but that’s not a valid critique of a book, that’s just, like…yes, it’s not, why would it be. It’s a character study of small town English politics and class interaction and while I obviously can’t attest to accuracy of it I ate it up. The political aspect of it is much less of the story than the backcover summary makes it seem. I didn’t buy it several times because of that summary. But the political scandal is just a touchstone, a premise that ties all of the diverse characters together. It could be dry at times, like dry enough that if I had been reading it in stead of listening to an audiobook I may not have been able to get through the political parts, but that’s another personal preference point and no reflection on the quality of the writing. The story is good, though. The story is about people. I think if you like shows like Skins or Misfits or Downton Abbey you will like this book. In summary: I probably wouldn’t have read this book if it hadn’t been JK. I will probably read it again. It gives you a lot to think about and reflect on. I can’t say if I like it or not but I don’t dislike it. There’s a lot of meat to it and I don’t think I got it all on the first round. Okay this isn’t quite a summary anymore. I am…neutral toward this book. It appeals to my anglophilia and I would love to know how sociologically accurate it is. Maybe after a reread I will be able to say if I recommend it or not.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente
I will never get tired of fairytales or children’s books, and this one is a perfect example of why. It combines that classic once-upon-a-time storytelling style that makes any magical story so engrossing with a modern language and lessons, a World War setting, and classical and original fae mythology. It takes into account it’s own status as a fairytale, which I loved. I love things that are self-aware like that. The exposition could be a little high-handed at times, and the narrator-to-reader asides were not to my personal taste (the way they were done, not their existence in general), but the adventures were good, the creatures new and old were engaging, there were twists that I was NOT expecting in this type of story, and the lessons the main character learns along the way are things I wish I had known as a kid. If I had read this when I was little, I absolutely would have wanted to be as brave and kind and strong as September grows to be. (Heck, I still do!) I will absolutely be hunting the rest of this series down and recommend it highly.
In The Land Of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent
I’m what I would describe as an amateur language enthusiast. I’m no linguist, but I am enchanted and enthralled by languages and love learning them and learning about them. For anyone with similar interests, this book is perfect. It’s about artificial languages: their history, their methods, their ambitions, their flaws. I bought it because it was quoted in an academic paper I read about Klingon. But it is the polar opposite of an academic paper - hilarious, engaging, and easy to understand. It requires no previous knowledge of linguistic terminology. It…well, it speaks English. Literally anybody who can read well enough to play Pokemon can pick this book randomly off the shelf and enjoy the entire thing, which is a really great and rare quality in a book about such an academic niche. And I’m not kidding about hilarious; I laughed so loudly so often that people kept coming to check on me. Granted, I have a pretty dorky sense of humor. But the introduction is about how the author looks up swear words first thing every time she starts a new language. What could be more endearing? I was entertained and learning and enjoying both simultaneously and LOVING EVERY MINUTE OF IT.
If you can’t tell, I REALLY love this book. I already call it “my book” and my friends know what I’m talking about. I think absolutely everyone should read it, but especially people who enjoy language or just weird cultural things. I’m definitely going to read it again, probably several times.