Friday, January 26, 2018

Recent Reads | January

2018 is, I can already tell, a departure from the book devouring of last year. I have time to read every day on my commute, but I don't have all the other hours of the day to do it too, and this month I only finished four titles. But as I said in my 2018 resolutions, I'm trying to slow down and take more time with what I'm reading, so instead of my usual skimming I'm actually looking at every word on the page and remembering the story (except for Christie mysteries, because those don't require much concentration).

Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean*
Grove Press, Publish date: 10 April 2018
Sharp is a well researched exploration of some of the most influential women writers of the last century. Almost every chapter explores a different woman's writing, giving details of their childhood and adolescent years as well as the intimate details of their writing careers. Dean differentiates this book from other collections of short biographies through two methods: (1) She considers the writers' impacts on each other, rather than writing about them in isolation, and (2) She covers these writers through the lens of feminism, not as a strict modern definition, but rather in their attitudes towards the mainstream feminist thought in their day and how they thought about and related to other women in their field. Dean grapples with the idea that many of these women wrote brilliantly and broke gender stereotypes yet did not have a high opinion of other women writers. The only thing I was disappointed in was the utter lack of women writers of color, as I would have liked a more rounded view of all of the experiences of women writers of the last century.

The English Wife by Lauren Willig*
St. Martin's Press, Publish date: 9 January 2018
If you love watching dramas on the CW, then this book is for you. I'm not normally one for the genre, but the thought of a murder mystery set in the New York Gilded Age proved too intriguing. The English Wife switches back and forth between two timelines: the first when Annabelle, an English actress, and Bay, a wealthy American, meet and build a life together and the second after Bay is discovered murdered and Annabelle missing, and Bay's sister Janie must uncover what happened. I particularly loved the evolution of the characters, especially Janie as she grew into herself as the story went on. The writing isn't the greatest - it's a guilty pleasure read for sure - but Willig weaves together the storylines so well that it's hard to put the book down.

Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie
Christie's Poirot mysteries can be very hit or miss, and this was unfortunately a miss. Hercule Poirot's Christmas centers around the Lee family after the family patriarch, a little-liked man, is found dead and his diamonds missing. While the characters were interesting enough, Poirot himself was not as amusing as he usually is, and the conclusion of the murder seemed overly complicated and unlikely.

The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier
Ordinarily I love du Maurier's work, but this one fell a little flat for me. Based on du Maurier's own family history, The Glass-Blowers follows a family of master glass-craftsmen during the time of the French Revolution. Unfortunately, du Maurier seems more interested in telling all of the details of the French Revolution with one-dimensional characters rather than developing the plot and characters with the revolution in the background. If you're really into the French Revolution or du Maurier's work you might like this one, otherwise I'd skip it.

*I received a free copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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