Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Recent Reads | March

I seem to have caught a strong second wind with my reading goals as I managed to read a whopping 15 books this month. Between a week off from work and the inspiration-inducing changing of the seasons, March was the month of the power read. In addition to finding great material at my local library, I remembered I have a NetGalley account and read a few advanced readers' copies, which was a remarkably easier process to figure out than I'd expected (all review copies are marked with an asterisk).

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
After loving Towles's newest book A Gentleman in Moscow, I wanted to read his other work. Rules of Civility is quite different from Gentleman, as instead of a Russian setting it's placed in NYC in the 1930s and follows Katey, a hard-working secretary whose life becomes entangled in that of a wealthy banker's after a chance encounter at a bar. The description sounds cliche but the book is wonderfully written and engaging, and I found it hard to put down once started.

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
I quickly fell in love with Jackson's books last spring after reading a few of her works, and as I've recently gotten more interested in short stories I took the chance to read her collection. The Lottery and Other Stories is similar in style to her full length works, but focuses more on establishing a sense of unease rather than exploring characters' reactions. Her stories are delightfully unnerving, and I would gladly read another of her collections given the chance.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
I 100% grabbed a copy of this based on the gorgeous cover, though of course I loved the movie as well. As a screenplay, it was obviously an exact copy of the film's dialogue, but I appreciated reading it for the more detailed explanations of character motives and facial expressions.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Anyone and everyone knows my life for Gaiman, so I need say nothing further than he recently wrote a new book. Conveniently published a mere month or two before the Starz adaptation of his popular American Gods, Norse Mythology is a delightfully written, easily readable collection of myths surrounding the Norse gods, most of whom are easily recognisable to Marvel fans: Odin, Thor, and Loki. I only have a small interest in ancient mythology, but I still found Norse Mythology an entertaining read.

Shake Hands or Die by Michael Northey*
Troubador Publishing Limited, Publish date: 8 February 2017
Shake Hands or Die is a fun, easy murder mystery. Short in length, bubbly characters, and a small village setting all add to its "cosy mystery" feel. Though it's written in a way that's supposed to confuse you as to who the murderer is, I found it easy to figure out long before the big reveal. Though it's short and fun, it's not very realistically written as everyone sounds pompous when they speak.

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
Continuing on with my read through all of Christie's Miss Marple series, I found this one better than the first one if only because Miss Marple was actually in the story rather than only being mentioned a handful of times. The Body in the Library was specifically written for the common dead-body-in-the-library trope, and Christie's version is wonderful, if quite short.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
This poetry collection has been everywhere in recent months, and though I'm not usually a fan of poetry, I succumbed to collective peer pressure. I was massively impressed by Kaur's work - it's less poetry and more powerfully phrased and illustrated thoughts. Milk and Honey is split into four sections tackling ideas of hurting, loving, breaking and healing, and many poems in each were so sharply written I could help but repeatedly pause to say THIS WOMAN GETS IT. I'm now looking to buy my own copy so I can write as much as I'd like in the margins.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
As soon as I heard about this collection of short stories about refugees' experiences - coincidentally published around the same time as Trump's first immigration Executive Order - I knew I had to read it. Nguyen covers twenty years of stories about immigration, family, and identity, and differentiates it from the rest of modern refugee tales by focusing on Vietnamese refugees, a topic with which Nguyen has immense familiarity. Nguyen's writing is excellent and I'm now interested in reading his first work, The Sympathizer.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
The only work by Gay I'd previously read was Bad Feminist, which I loved, so I was excited to pick up a copy of her newest work. I expected Difficult Women to be about women who aren't easy to like, but instead it was almost entirely about the nuances of sexual relationships, which got terribly monotonous after a while. There's no doubt Gay is a powerful writer, but I felt like I was reading the same story over and over again.

Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter
My feelings about this experimental novella are much the same as they were on The Story of My Teeth - I prefer traditional storytelling. Grief is the Thing With Feathers bounces back and forth between the perspectives of a father, his sons, and The Crow, who all live together after the woman of the family dies. It was an easy read but a strange one.

The Graybar Hotel by Curtis Dawkins*
Canongate Books, Publish date: 20 July 2017
This collection of short stories written by a current inmate is stunningly well written, and describes the day-to-day flow of life inside prison from perspectives of those rarely seen in television portrayals. Each story is a moving portrait of the emotional lives of inmates and gives a needed voice to those who don't have one outside prison walls.

A Separation by Katie Kitamura
I saw this one being discussed all over Twitter, and after finishing I thought it interesting but largely forgettable. A Separation focuses on a wife's narration as she follows her husband to Greece to ask for a divorce after he goes missing. The use of first person perspective is particularly impactful as it serves to display the distance between the two characters, but was rather simplistically written.

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
Moving steadily forward on my read through the Miss Marple series... I really enjoyed this one. Miss Marple isn't in it aside from two short scenes, but the main characters were amusing and the mystery kept me guessing (as in, I was convinced I knew who the murderer was and was very off). The Moving Finger is my favourite of the Miss Marple books so far.

Nothing is Predictable by Adalina Mae*
Independent Book Publishers Association, Publish date: 1 October 2016
I chose to read this one solely based on the Goodreads reviews, which all said this was an excellent book documenting an emotional journey. I don't think I've ever read a worse book in my life; I must have gotten a first draft copy because there were numerous grammatical errors and story was poorly written to the point of distraction. I felt like I was reading a high school fiction project, not a book by an author who had been vetted by a publishing agency.

Deconstructing Dirty Dancing by Stephen Lee Naish*
Zero Books, Publish date: 28 April 2017
I've always loved reading film analysis essays and this book is an excellent one on an old classic. I read the whole piece in one sitting and was fascinated by the nuances explored and the defense of the plotline choices. A must-read for fans of Dirty Dancing or film critics.

*I received a copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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