Thursday, May 25, 2017

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go
Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 288
How I Found It: I've read other Ishiguro works and I really liked the film adaptation of this novel.
Date Completed: 5/7/17

Summary: Kathy recounts her years of friendship with Tommy and Ruth. From their days confined to boarding school to their years as carers and donors, their story is haunted by questions and rumors about their life's purpose.

What I Thought: I saw the film adaptation of this ages ago. I fell completely in love with it, in part because it has one of my favorite film scores ever. Looking back now, I'm not surprised I enjoyed the movie. Carey Mulligan, Andrew Gafield, Kiera Knightly... The cast was stacked before any of those three really became major stars. 

I haven't seen the movie in years, but I've been enjoying Ishiguro's work lately and really coming to respect him as an author. It seemed like a good time to visit the source. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Take Tuesday: Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran
Some books are just so good, you have to read them again. And some books deserve a second chance. And some books I think about and change my opinion or have more to say. Take Tuesday is a chance to do just that. 

Title: Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
Author: Azar Nafisi
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 356
Genre: Historical / Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
Previous Readings: November 2012
Date Completed This Time: 5/3/17

Summary: Nafisi reflects on her time teaching Western Literature in post-revolution Iran. She talks about her experiences and how the books impacted her and her students in the midst of their changing world. 

What I Thought Before: You should definitely go back and read my first post about this book. I think I covered my thoughts pretty well.

What I Think Now: I recommended this book for book club and, thankfully, it was a hit. We had a wonderful discussion about the purpose of literature, gender roles, and the arch of revolution. Good stuff. It's such a treat to share books like this with an intellectual group of people.

Friday, May 19, 2017

100 Best Novels Roundup, Vol. 3

As I near the end of the 100 Best Novels challenge, I've been condensing my reviews into these roundups. Here are mini reviews of the two novels from the list which I read in April:
The Naked and the Dead

Title: The Naked and the Dead
Author: Norman Mailer
Publication Date: 1948
Pages: 721
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels
Date Completed: 4/11/17

What I Thought: I'll be honest... Sitting down to write this review, I remember very little of this book. I only finished it nine days ago, but I'm struggling to recall much of what happened. I think such an admission is actually quite representative of my feelings of this novel in general.

I'm sure I'll grouse about this more when I do my final 100 Best Novels overview post, but I am just so tired of war stories. I recognize what hugely impactful events the world wars were. It makes sense that every book written around that era at least references them. Still, it's hard for me to connect with stories of soldiers on the battlefield. I have absolutely no life experience which can help me understand such circumstances. I know, I know. That makes it even more important for me to be reading these stories. I get that, too. I just...I'm tired of them. There are so many unique stories to tell in the world and I'm annoyed by the high number of stories from the trenches that made it onto this prestigious list.

I recognize Mailer's skill and why this book became such a sensation. It just didn't work for me personally. It did, however, make me wonder if there will ever be such an event that every single story of this era will center around it. Is there anything left that can unite our stories in such a huge way? Would it take another world war?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Nope

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Gammage Cup - Carol Kendall

The Gammage Cup
Title: The Gammage Cup
Author: Carol Kendall
Publication Date: 1959
Pages: 288
How I Found It: I read it as a child and have been searching for it for literally years. 
Date Completed: 5/5/17

Summary: The Minnipins have lived in their peaceful valley for centuries without disturbance. When a few social outsiders sense a threat, the natural order of things is threatened. 

What I Thought: This is such a great book. No surprise that it's a Newbery Honor book. Though it was written back in 1959, it has themes that feel so relevant today. Social acceptance, heroism, speaking truth to power...the messages of the book are still wise in 2017. And, it's still totally fun to read as an adult. 

It's a quick read. I read it in two days. It was the perfect thing to get my mind off of the AHCA passing the House. Escapist and inspirational all at once.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Wishful Drinking - Carrie Fisher

Wishful Drinking
Title: Wishful Drinking
Author: Carrie Fisher
Publication Date: 12/2/08
Pages: 163
Genre: Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've been wanting to read some of Fisher's work.
Date Completed: 4/28/17

Summary: Fisher recounts the highs and lows of her life in the spotlight, including her struggles with alcohol and drugs, her celebrity parents, and that time a friend died in her bed. 

What I Thought: I have been wanting to read Fisher's books since her death in December. When she died, I had heard a bit about her most recent memoir, but I had no idea she had been such a prolific writer. I am a Star Wars fan, but really did not know much about Fisher beyond her tenure as Princess Leia. So, when I was looking for a lighter read late one night and this was available via my library's digital collection, I jumped. 

I am so glad I did. I read the whole thing in less than two days, sneaking bits here and there when I could, devouring chapters at a time when I should have been sleeping. It's not a long book, so two days is not quite the accomplishment it sounds. Still, Fisher's writing style made it easy to devour and hard to put down.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Magician's Land - Lev Grossman

The Magician's Land
Title: The Magician's Land
Author: Lev Grossman
Publication Date: 8/5/14
Pages: 402
Genre: Fantasy / Fiction
How I Found It: I read the first two books in the series.
Date Completed: 4/28/17

Summary: Grossman's series about young magicians and their journeys to and from other worlds comes to its conclusion.

What I Thought: This series is so fascinating to me. The three books contain the same characters and are very directly intertwined. Yet, each book has a very different tone. The first centers largely around the Brakebills crew during their time at Brakebills, the magical college; it's dark and heavy with party atmosphere and the consequences thereof. The second book reads like a classic fantasy adventure, practically ripped from the mind of C. S. Lewis and the Narnia series; it's a seeker's journey. This third book, set practically a decade after we've first met our characters, feels different yet again.

Whether purposeful or not, Grossman has really captured the journey of young adulthood. In the beginning, Quentin is emotional and often irrational. He and his friends are typical college students, very rarely considering the consequences of their actions or relationships. They go through some terrible things until, at least, they seem settled on the thrones of Fillory. But, in the second book, it turns out that living such a scripted life is not all its cracked up to be for Quentin. He wants adventure. He misses the thrills of life before, perhaps because he's blocked out the traumas that came with them. So, he has an adventure and, in the end, finds himself alone and starting from square one.

Enter The Magician's Land

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Killing Lessons - Saul Black

The Killing Lessons
Title: The Killing Lessons
Author: Saul Black
Publication Date: 9/22/15
Pages: 400
Genre: Thriller / Fiction 
How I Found It: A student loaned it to me.
Date Completed: 4/23/17

Summary: A serial killer is on the loose, leaving tortured and disfigured corpses in his wake. Valerie Hart is on the case, but can barely keep her personal life together. Will she catch the killer before her depression and drinking catches her? 

What I Thought: I mentioned in one of my classes this semester how much I read. My students were more than a bit taken aback. As always, when I reveal my love for reading, people have recommendations. This time, one sweet student even brought me a copy of this book, which she had enjoyed recently. 

I think I've talked about this here before, but detective novels are not usually my thing. J. K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith's books are the only ones I have ever really enjoyed much. I mostly read detective novels via audio book while in the car with Kevin. They are one of the only genres that will hold his attention on long road trips. But, under the circumstances, I felt I should give this one a chance. 

My verdict?