Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Dark Tower series #1-3

The first three books of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series -- The Gunslinger [Revised ed. 2003 (orig 1982)], The Drawing of the Three [1987], and The Waste Lands [1991] together make quite an interesting start to the alternative universe fantasy series from the well-known horror author.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks

Though clearly written by someone who is not a 'writer', The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape (2015) by James Rebanks was a compelling book about a lifestyle that hasn't changed much in centuries.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Taking inspiration from the craze of the California Gold Rush and the madness it seemed to induce in the general populace and the individuals who participated, The Sisters Brothers (2011) by Patrick deWitt was a very good story from quite a different perspective than the books I typically read.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Dominion by C.J. Sansom

Dominion (2012) by C.J. Sansom offers an incredibly important view of World War II and what might have happened if the allies had tried appeasement and compromise instead of fighting back against Hitler. It really made me think a lot about war and what is truly worth fighting for; for every action, both fighting and not fighting, there are always consequences.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

The 5th book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, The Fiery Cross (2001) follows immediately after the events of book 4, and therefore maintains both the wonderful writing and interesting characters and settings we've become used to.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Just in time for the premier of the TV show later this month -- Neil Gaiman's book American Gods (2001) is a folk tale for the modern age with plenty of action and unexpected twists.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

We Should all be Feminists by Chimamanda Adichie

We Should all be Feminists (2015) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is similar in some ways to Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman -- the text of a speech (in this case a TED talk) by the author transferred to the written word in a dynamic and compelling manner.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dominion by C.J. Sansom

Dominion (2012) by C.J. Sansom was exciting, disturbing, interesting, and -- given current events -- pretty depressing. The story offered an incredibly important view of "what if" the allies had tried appeasement and compromise in relation to Hitler's reign. In not fighting back against the evil, the allies became the evil.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

The Winter People (2014) by Jennifer McMahon is a wonderful book filled with excitement, mystery, troubling pasts, anticipation, and just enough of the supernatural (I won't say what kind -- that would give things away) to keep it interesting.

Flipping back and forth between the past and the present, I liked the connection that created, with the story weaving the two time periods together very effectively. The "New England" feel of both the setting and the story was very appealing and familiar to me as a life-long (and proud) New Englander myself.

Though the book has supernatural elements, the story was really more about loss and the relationships between mothers and daughters, both with good and especially with not-so-good associations, so don't let the idea of the supernatural turn you off if that's not normally your 'thing'. This is an excellent book to read in poor weather in a cozy chair with a hot drink. A perfect winter book (as the title implies)!

“I think people see what they want to see... But think about it: if you'd lost someone you love, wouldn't you give almost anything to have the chance to see them again?” 

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

While Beauty Slept (2014) by Elizabeth Blackwell is a beautiful, more realistic, behind-the-scenes tale of Sleeping Beauty. A very nice adaptation of the classic story, this time told from the perspective of one of Beauty's mother's ladies-in-waiting, therefore mostly taking place before Beauty is born and during her childhood and not focusing on her directly.

The characters were highly developed and entirely sympathetic (including, in some way, even the "evil queen"-type character); I felt like I knew all the main characters very well, and I could understand why they did they things they did. The setting was fairly standard fantasy medieval fare (not that there's anything wrong with that), and the story certainly kept me interested and engaged.

I really love this genre of re-telling classic stories / fairy tales from another perspective. I've really liked most of the from-the-villan's-view versions, but this was a good twist as well. Definitely worth reading.
“I am not the sort of person about whom stories are told. Those of humble birth suffer their heartbreaks and celebrate their triumphs unnoticed by the bards, leaving no trace in the fables of their time.” 
Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

On to-reads and re-reading

I mentioned in my last post about my plans for my reading in the year ahead. While I don't like to plan too much (in favor of allowing myself some flexibility and spontaneity in what I read, especially if something interesting comes through the circulation desk here), I do like to have a good stack of to-reads at home. I like to balance picking books from my 'offical' To Read spreadsheet with being able to grab something randomly off the shelf if it catches my eye. I keep my To Read and Read spreadsheets color-coded by genre, in my attempt to keep a rough balance of the types of books I read, throwing in some non-fiction and mysteries in my fantasy and historical fiction choices, for instance.

One of the top items on my To Read list will be Tolkien's Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series, which I will be re-reading with some friends / colleagues in conjunction with a new series by one of our favorite podcasters, StoryWonk. Hosted by a husband-and-wife team of writers, they've analyzed many great book, tv, and movie series, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Outlander to the MCU. Now they're about to dive deep into the Lord of the Rings, first the books and then the movies. I'm really looking forward to re-reading this series and seeing it from a new perspective via both the podcast series and my friends! Feel free to join in as well.

2017 might end up being the year of the series for me. In addition to the Tolkien books and the other series I mentioned last time (Outlander, Dark Tower, V.I. Warshawski, and Anne of Green Gables), I have many others near the top of my To Read list. I've been thinking about giving Agatha Christie a try, which might be a good contrast to the modern setting of the Warshawski mysteries, and once I finish Outlander and Dark Tower, I'll be moving on to the Dresden Files. After Anne of Green Gables, I'll pick another children's series. Perhaps a new one, or I might go back and re-visit my favorite of all time, the Little House books. Though I usually have a hard time justifying re-reading books when I have so many not-read ones on my To Read list, sometimes it's nice to find comfort in an old favorite.

Keep reading! Beth


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016: Reading Year in Review

Now that 2016 is well and truly behind us (thank goodness), I thought I might take a look back at my reading from the past year. I have a personal, ongoing goal of expanding my reading horizons and making sure I don't stick to my mainstay genres -- namely fantasy -- so I keep track of what I've read by genre and my own rating.

In 2016 I finished reading 73 books:

14 Fiction
1 YA Fiction
10 Children's Fiction
2 Fantasy
4 YA Fantasy
4 Children's Fantasy
2 Science Fiction
6 Historical Fiction
6 Mystery
1 Thriller
4 Non-Fiction
7 Memoirs
12 Graphic Novels (not including all the Marvel, DC, etc. comic books I read)

This included a re-read over the summer of the Harry Potter series (the first half of which I count as children's fantasy and the last few books of the series as YA fantasy), catching up to the Ruth Galloway mystery series, and beginning the Dark Tower series in anticipation of the movie (starring Idris Elba!) coming out this year.

I started and did not finish an additional 2 books:

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin: I tried to read because of the hype, but I found the writing style to be very off-putting. Way too much telling and not enough showing, and after several chapters I still didn't feel that I actually knew any of the characters, even the main one.

Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Offaviani: As a graphic novel, I had hoped this would be a more accessible way to read a biography about Alan Turing's life and work. However in this case the drawings made it harder to understand -- the people all looked so similar I had no idea who was who, and I was just hopelessly lost right away.

On the other end of the spectrum, the books I rated a full five stars (in no particular order) were:

Ready Player One (science fiction) - Ernest Cline
Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) (historical fiction) - Diana Gabaldon
Paper Towns (YA fiction) - John Green
Marvel 1602 (graphic novel) - Neil Gaiman
Dad is Fat (humor / memoir) - Jim Gaffigan
Darkest Part of the Forest (YA fantasy) - Holly Black
Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine (non-fiction) - Sarah Lohman [stay tuned for my review soon!]

All in all, I think it was a very successful reading year for me! Now I still have several series I'm continuing to juggle (Outlander, Dark Tower, Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski mystery series, and Anne of Green Gables) while also reading non-series books, and plenty more in my to-read list. So I'm really looking forward to what 2017 will bring (reading-wise...).

Keep reading!
Beth