Month in Review: July 2019

I missed a June in review post, so I’m back with July in review.  I read a lot of shorter books this month, but I also tackled Wanderers which was huge!

Books read: 9 for July, 58 for the year

Pages read: 2,831 out of 18,051

Hours listened to: 5.5

Average rating: 3.78

Female Authors: 4 out of 27 for the year

Favorite Read:

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Review here.  It was close between this and An Illusion of Thieves but this one was so much longer (800 pages total) and was a larger time investment so I’m going with Wanderers.

UPDATE: I finished Inland by Tea Obreht just under the wire for July and after writing this post.  I’ve counted it in my stats but because I haven’t reviewed it yet I’m not counting it here or in any of the categories below.  I don’t want to say I enjoyed Inland far more than Wanderers or An Illusion of Thieves, but of the three, I think Inland will stay with me much longer, and would rank it as the favorite.

AudioBooks Listened To:  

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Review here.  I enjoyed this much more than the last McCarthy I read.

Graphic Novels Read:

Stephen Kings N. by Marc Guggenheim

Review here.  Being that it’s a graphic novel, it only took a couple hours to read, but it’s worth it!

ARCs Read:

 

The Last Astronaut released on July 23.

The Dead Girls Club – I cheated and read this early.  Review is scheduled for sometime in November!

Other reads completed this month:

 

ARCs received:

 

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup – A Nordic Noir thriller that I’m super excited for.

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie – A Don Quixote retelling.  I’ve never read Don Quixote or Salman Rushdie so I’m curious how this one will turn out for me.

People of the Lake by Nick Scorza – An Edelweiss read now download that I was willing to take a chance on because I love the cover and the description sounds like something out of a King novel.

Imaginary Friend by Nick Scorza – I already mentioned this one in a Can’t Wait Wednesday post.  I’m hoping to clear out some of my other ARCs and dive into this one.

Giveaways Won:

 

Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade – I’m so excited to have won this!  It sounds right up my alley.  It’s not due out until November… I’m hoping Tor doesn’t wait months to send it.

Fortuna Sworn by KJ Sutton – The author actually approached me to review this, and it’s been awhile since I read a Fae novel, so I happily agreed.  (Also- I love that cover!)

Salvation Day by Kali Wallace – Thank you to Tammy @ Books, Bones and Buffy for hosting this giveaway!  It was a total surprise when it showed up in the mail but I’m hoping to start it very soon because it sounds perfect for what I’ve been in the mood to read lately.

Currently reading:

The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova

The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova – This was a Kindle steal a couple months back for 99 cents.  Currently buddy reading it with some friends on the SFF Book Club at GoodReads!

Planned reads for August:

 

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys – An author I keep hearing about and finally have the occasion to read!

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa – A translated Japanese dystopian that I’m super excited for!

The Hive by Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden – A YA dystopian about a society that punishes and condemns online trolling, bullying, etc.

How was July for you?

Three Quick Book Reviews

I’ve actually finished several quick books the past week or two and I’ve been avoiding reviewing them because they were just the sort of books I didn’t have much to say about afterwards.  So I’m going to just give quick impressions here.

avld_amo

Rating:  ★★

Alien Virus Love Disaster by Abbey Mei Otis (or: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” my tag line, not the book’s.) This is the review I’ve been dreading most because I wanted so badly to like it and just couldn’t connect with it at all.  It’s a collection of bizarre short fiction mostly incorporating some kind of romance and/or alien contact.

With a title like Alien Virus Love Disaster– I was expecting something weird, yes, but also something funny.  Like the Stephanie Plum of alien books.  And it was just dark, depressing, despairing.  There isn’t a single shred of hope in the whole darn book.  Not one tiny story.

I gave it two stars instead of one because on the upside, the stories are unique and inclusive.  I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like them, and I can see how they would be right for someone, just not me.  I wanted to laugh, I wanted to be uplifted, and instead I ended up dragged down in a way I wasn’t prepared for.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Rating:  ★★★★

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (abridged, narrated by: Rupert Degas):  I know what you’re thinking.  “But Sarah, didn’t you just completely rip apart the last book you read by Cormac McCarthy just a few short weeks ago?”

Why yes, blogger friends.  Yes I did.  But I rewrote that review three times because I couldn’t get Blood Meridian out of my head.  And to me, the hallmark of a good book is one you can’t stop thinking about. (It’s the best 2 star book I ever read, lol.)  So I borrowed this on audio on a whim from my library.  Unfortunately all they had was the abridged version, so I can’t tell you what I missed out on, but I can tell you I would give this a go eye reading the full version.

The narrator, Rupert Degas, did a phenomenal job (except for his girly voices, which are weird, but only a small part of the book).  His voice is perfect for this kind of grim, desolate, post-apocalyptic world.  Hearing it instead of reading it solves a lot of McCarthy’s style choices.  The narrator was able to convey dialogue and made the issues I had with a lack of punctuation almost nonexistent.  I think audio is a good way to be introduced to McCarthy.

Anyway- our two MCs are Man and Boy.  They are traveling The Road to get South.  America’s population has been decimated by some kind of sickness.  What’s left are the good guys and the bad guys.  Man and Boy are “good” guys, as good as good can be in this world anyway.

The environment itself is the biggest challenge, lugging around supplies, enduring weather, falling trees (I got the sense the trees were all dying).  And when they encounter bad guys, it gets grim and dark real fast.  The message of the book is that hope and beauty can still be found in even the darkest places, I think, because despite all the many, many low points, there were still some significant high and happy points.

McCarthy’s writing really is beautiful and often reads like poetry.  I wasn’t glowing or gushing when I finished it, but I didn’t find my mind wandering too frequently when I listened, and that’s usually a challenge for me.  I’d definitely recommend this if you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction.

Trigger content: again, if you have them I sort of must insist that you avoid McCarthy at all costs.  Nothing is off limits for him.

Stephen Kings N. by Marc Guggenheim

Rating:  ★★★★

Stephen King’s N. by Marc Guggenheim, illustrated by Alex Maleev – This is a graphic novel adapted from Stephen King’s novella of the same name found in his collection: Just After Sunset.

I enjoyed this- the art work was great and dynamic, and the mystery sucks you in right from the start.  It starts with a letter from a woman to an old friend talking about her brother’s death.  From there we flash back to where it all started.  The brother was a psychologist working with a patient who developed OCD after visiting Ackerman’s field in Motton, Maine.

It wasn’t quite a full five stars for me because the whole story is pretty ambiguous, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and will definitely check out the novella.  If you decide to pick this up, don’t skip the foreword.  Guggenheim pays a beautiful tribute to a good friend and makes clear his fondness for King and his excitement over this project.  I’d love to see more of King’s short stories adapted into Graphic Novels turned into Graphic Novels.

 

 

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy, a Book Review in Three Parts

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

Rating:  ★★★

PART I: Initial Feelings

“You can find meanness in the least of creatures, but when God made man the devil was at his elbow.”

Guess who’s feeling extra grouchy after a string of two and three star books and one DNF.

This girl.

I’m going to take it out on this novel because I’m so professional (sarcasm) and my review on this book at this point in time is basically totally meaningless because it’s already an American classic.  I think.

Anyway- I picked this up because it’s one of the more well known westerns out there, and I’d been craving something western since I started playing Red Dead Redemption way back in October 2018.

Dios mio, I could not have picked something farther removed from that. (On the bright side- my spanish hasn’t been this good since 10th grade.)

“Notions of chance and fate are the preoccupation of men engaged in rash undertakings.”

The writing is dazzling, but the style borders on insanity and takes a special kind of focus to decipher.  These sentences run on for DAYS.  The vocabulary is difficult, and when mixed with the vernacular it has a tendency to induce mind numbing levels of frustration.  There are no quotation marks to mark dialogue either, but that proved to be less of an issue as I became accustomed to it.

For all the flowery description and beautiful scenery, I felt like I never had any idea where the characters were.  I guess this is largely because they probably didn’t have any idea where they were, wandering the desert as they did, but it was confusing.  Also, at one point it was snowing and I thought they were in a desert.  Does this happen IRL?  Soon after they were on a mountain, but I swear they started in a desert.

“I know your kind, he said. What’s wrong with you is wrong all the way through you.”

Cormac McCarthy could teach Stephen King a thing or two about violence.  I totally didn’t read the blurb (my own fault), but I thought this was going to be about gangs robbing banks and trains and stuff.  It was about gangs scalping Native Americans, Mexicans, and generally anyone who got in their way. It was pretty awful.  I have no one to blame but myself.  I really need to pay better attention to what I pick up.

Trigger/content warnings: if you have them, please stay very far away from this book. Far, far away.

Side note:  Has anyone read The Road?  I wanted to read that one too, but now I’m thinking maybe not.

“War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.”

What else?  Hmm… despite all the things that didn’t work there were some *fun* bar fight scenes I enjoyed.  Aside from how they ended a lot of them felt like that fantastic scene where Lenny and Arthur go drinking together and chaos ensues.  They ended much bloodier but when you’ve seen a gang commit what is basically genocide, the bar scenes seemed like small potatoes.

And I think that’s all I have to say that.  I don’t recommend it, and I’m not sure I’ll be revisiting McCarthy’s work in the future.  (I’m reneging on this.  I think I’ll definitely visit his work in the future.  I still wouldn’t recommend it to anyone I didn’t know could handle it.)

Oh yeah- I forgot about the Epilogue.  WTF was that about?  Please blogger friends, dazzle me with your brilliance.  Clearly I was not worthy.

PART II: In Retrospect

“What joins men together is not the sharing of bread but sharing of enemies.”

Here’s the deal.  I wrote this review almost directly after I finished reading it over a week ago.  I initially gave it two stars and was pretty salty about the whole thing.  I’m sorry because I know some of you were looking forward to the review, so please know that was not a proud moment for me.

I don’t regret anything I said above (which is why I’ve left it), but this book has stuck with me. There are many possible interpretations of this novel.  A couple that I looked up: Blood Meridian satirizes the classic American western novel, is a “savage indictment of Manifest Destiny”, is nihilistic, and also “eludes all interpretation”* (all of these were taken directly from the book’s wikipedia page).

I keep turning it over and over again trying to solve the puzzle and looking for answers, and I don’t think that feeling is going to go away any time soon.  So I’m bumping the rating up to three stars with the caveat that it really probably deserves far more than that, but I’d need to re-read it to be sure, and for now I need a break. (My thoughts on this continued in Part III.)

“[He] lurched into the street vowing to shoot the ass off Jesus Christ, the longlegged white son of a bitch.”

In trying to decipher the puzzle that is Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, I stumbled across this article, which talks about McCarthy’s sense of humor.  And you know what?  It’s true.  He really is funny.  Sick.  But funny.  There were plenty of times I wanted to laugh out loud, and then stopped myself because I thought the content of the book was really awful, and even worse it really happened, so laughing out loud would make me a terrible person.  Still, I wanted to laugh.

One last struggle I had with the book and didn’t mention above, is that the book needed better transitional scenes.  I figured out very late in the game that the chapter headings/titles are acting as the transitions.  If you give this a go, read the chapter headings, memorize them.  They help organize the structure and sense of place.

PART III: ENDING SPOILERS DISCUSSION

“All history present in that visage, the child the father of the man.”

I don’t normally include spoilers, but I think it makes an interesting discussion and given that it’s a pretty widely known and read book, I don’t feel terrible about including them.  You have been warned. (This section written was part of my original review, and added on to later.)

I’m insanely annoyed at the ambiguity of what happened to the Kid (and the ambiguity in general).  I’ve read the theories that he was raped.  Honestly- those make no sense to me.  Let’s do the math.  The kid was estimated to be 14 in 1849.  His last known sighting happens in 1878.  Thirty years later.  He would have been about 43.  The Judge on the other hand, given all his traveling (which okay, might have been a lie) and education, I imagined to be 30/40 in 1849.  Thirty years later he’d have been 60 or 70.  Are we really arguing that a 60 or 70 year old man with the health care available in 1878 would have been able to overpower an otherwise healthy 43 year old?  Really?!

I’m more inclined to believe it was consensual due to past abuse we didn’t see when he was a boy/teen (either by the Judge or the Kid’s father).  That being said I imagine the Kid is dead due to what the casual side-character observances say about the jake (which is apparently a word for outhouse, I always thought it was slang for cops, this lead to admittedly hilarious confusion in retrospect). The Kid being dead really pisses me off.  It pissed me off more than Ned Stark pissed me off.  I needed the Judge to get justice.  I needed a shred of hope in this terribly dark and depressing story.

Aside from that- I’m not really sure what it’s even supposed to symbolize.  The Judge is often described as a seven foot tall, completely bald baby (maybe symbolizes America given it’s relative ‘newness’ as a country, or possibly greed and capitalism because of his actions). The Kid could represent progress (he does eventually become ‘the Man’) or reason because despite his violent actions, I got the sense throughout it was only under provocation.  Maybe we’re inferring that greed and capitalism will always trump reason or hinder progress?  I just don’t know.

“All progressions from a higher to a lower order are marked by ruins and mystery and a residue of nameless rage.”

I wrote above about the meaning of this novel and how I’m still trying to piece it together.  I think there is a strong argument there that it’s some great joke McCarthy has played on the literary community, and it really is meaningless… but if I had to pick a meaning, it would be that violence is senseless.

This book bounces from violent annihilation of entire villages, to our protagonists dying of thirst in the desert, and being saved by those same exact people they would have otherwise raped, killed and scalped.  Most of the Glanton gang dies in the end, not much better off than they started, still desert wanderers, despite the massive amounts of gold and weapons they have acquired.  So not only was there little-to-no benefit (they drank most of the gold away, there isn’t much to spend gold on in the desert), but they largely orchestrated their own downfall.  And this interpretation still doesn’t sit right with me.

If you have read the book, I would love to know what you think happened in the end or what you took away from the novel.

“He never sleeps, the judge. He is dancing, dancing. He says that he will never die.”

 

 

 

Library Book Haul

How do you bust a reading slump?

Read ALL the books.

So I went to the library and got ALL the books.

Okay not really.  Here’s what’s up next:

Witchmark C.L. Polk

Witchmark by C. L. Polk

Initial impressions: The writing is excellent.  I only read the first chapter but it was super atmospheric.  It was very easy to picture the setting: people riding bikes and horse drawn carriages in the streets.  A bustling city with soldiers coming and going.  The shadow of war hanging over them all.  The intrigue level is super high.  Nothing is really explained.  It starts out normal enough with a doctor leaving work for the day, and an emergency patient coming through.  And then the magic and witchery starts.  I was expecting more magical realism than straight up magic (which honestly is not really my thing) but I like it so far.  It seems to be hinting at an underground mage society so I’m excited to see where that leads to.  A promising start!

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Initial impressions: First of all- GoodReads told me this was 182 pages long.  It’s not.  I’m willing to forgive it in lieu of the fabulous introduction from Stephen King.  When he found this book, he said he was looking for a book about “how boys really are.”  Golding’s influence on King is obvious.  As I read through the first chapters I kept thinking it felt familiar. Finally I realized it was because it feels like King.  The characters feel real, the prose isn’t overly flowery (though more flowery than King’s).  I’m a little confused about how these boys got to this island, but so far that first chapter is the one that resonated with me the most, so I’ll be continuing with this one before the others.

Initial Impressions: This is confusing as hell.

Seriously- why do authors think writing without quotation marks is a good thing?  Not cool man. I had to re-read a paragraph like eight times, move on, and then double back when I realized there weren’t any quotation marks (and honestly I’m still not sure I understood the conversation).  Otherwise, the prose is spot on.  I’ve highlighted a couple quotes I love already, and if it wasn’t for Lord of the Flies, this would have been my second pick to continue reading.  I’m not sure what the judge’s deal is. I know he’s the big bad in this novel though, so I’m excited to see what it’s leading up to.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Initial impressions: I just read a book where a man gets shot in the chest, kills another man dead for taking his shoes, but pulling the wings off a fat little bumblebee bothered me more.  There’s something wrong with me right?  Anyway- I was immediately sucked in by the premise.  A little girl meets a strange man.  There’s something sinister happening with the strange man (Harper Curtis).  That much is obvious from the start.  He seems to hint that he’s acting under orders from some other organization, but that doesn’t make you like him any more.  The writing is great and I’m curious to see where it goes.

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Initial impressions: I think I’ve only really read the introduction and the prologue so far, but I’m a little disappointed.  I’m still coming down from the high that was The Mere Wife, so I had high expectations.  My favorite type of writing, my favorite type of book, is one that I like to describe as unapologetic.  The author writes in a way that’s bound to make the reader uncomfortable, exposing all the ugly truths within a person or a society or practice, but so far this isn’t that.  It doesn’t carry the same level of force that The Mere Wife does. Still, I haven’t read much so I’ll remain hopeful.

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

Initial impressions: I wasn’t really interested in The Queens of Innis Lear when it first released.  The title, the name… it seemed like a pretty generic fantasy to me.  It looked and sounded similar to Four Dead Queens and Three Dark Crowns, which all released at about the same time. But I recently stumbled across the title Lady Hotspur which I added strictly because of the title.  When I checked out the blurb of that, it referenced this.  So I doubled back to TQOIL and read the blurb, and thought what the hell.  I liked King Lear, who not give it a go?  I hope it maintains the humor and wit of King Lear throughout.

So that’s ALL the books.

Have you read any of them?  Are they on your TBR?

Also- please send help.