Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Recent Reads | March

Last month I logged all of the books I read - a hefty nine novels in total. This month I managed fewer titles as I was constantly overwhelmed with work and previous commitments and (tbh) new seasons of television shows. I still managed 6 books but they were far shorter in length and complexity than February's selections.

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
At 550 pages, The Queen of the Night could stand to be edited down quite a lot, as the book took far too much time to tell the story it attempted. Despite its size, I enjoyed Chee's latest - it's an ambitious, sweeping tale of a girl who makes her way from America to 1880s France and becomes first a circus performer, then an escort, and finally an opera singer. The romances seemed forced and there were moments when it seemed that Chee couldn't write women, but nevertheless, it was an entertaining read that occupied me for several weeks.

Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey
Novey's debut novel is a shock of a book. It's a gorgeously written tale with breathtaking sentences, yet at times so trivial and silly that it seems forgettable. Novey combines her crafted sentences with short chapters to create a story where a translator must track down her author after the writer goes missing when her massive debt problem is discovered. Little time is spent developing the characters and yet Novey imbues them with so much personality that you hardly notice its brevity. Novey's novel debut is different, but fresh and simple, and makes for an entertaining break-from-the-norm.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Jackson's 1959 classic horror is often regarded as a must-read for book lovers but had slipped under my radar until the last year. I read both Hill House and We Have Always Lived in a Castle over spring break and quickly fell in love with both. The Haunting of Hill House tells of four individuals interested in studying the supernatural elements suspected of haunting an old house that follow them during their stay. The ending is left ambiguous as to what actually happened, but it was sufficiently spooky enough for me to be glad I was reading it in the daylight.

We Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson
From its opening page to its final sentence, We Have Always Lived in a Castle is an intriguing, unsettling read. Two sisters, Mary and Constance, live together in their old family home with their Uncle Julian after the other members of their family are poisoned by arsenic. They happily live in isolation until their cousin appears on their doorstep and threatens to dismantle their way of life. Castle is written from Mary's perspective, and though she's 18 it reads like a child wrote it, adding to the uneasy, mysterious atmosphere.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Though I'm not often a fan of YA fantasy, I picked up A Darker Shade of Magic after hearing such good reviews, and it was better than expected. Kell is a magical Traveler, one of the few able to travel between the four Londons, all nicknamed after colours based on the availability of magic. He uses his ability to officially act as an ambassador between the royals in each city, but unofficially as a smuggler between worlds, which lands him in trouble when he accidentally commits treason. The plot is simplistic like most novels of its type but the romance isn't as contrived as most so it was an entertaining if forgettable read.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
I am usually not a fan of romance novels, particularly modern ones, but as this has become such a popular piece after news of its film adaptation I decided to give it a try. After Lou Clark loses her job as a waitress she grows desperate and gets a job as a caretaker for a disabled man, Will Traynor. Naturally, the two fall in love and go on numerous, fancy adventures together, and the story involves a jaded boyfriend, family complications, and a couple who grow from hate to love. It's quite cliche and it certainly wasn't my top pick of the month, but for those who like romances it's a good one.

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