July marks the halfway point for the year’s reading and I thought I might take a little time to analyze my reading so far this year. My reading progress in June has been a bit slow, but that’s mostly because I’ve immersed myself in a large novel and it is taking me longer to complete. This isn’t a complaint; The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt is so lush, vibrant, and weirdly uncomfortable. It will certainly be a fun review to write when I’m done.
I’ve read 27 books so far, which puts me a little bit ahead on my goal of 52 reads completed by the end of the year. Tomorrow I’ll talk about my favorite books of 2015 so far, but today I thought I’d mention my graphic novel reads.
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton: I adored this series of witty comics mostly about history and literature. I’m not Canadian, so I had to look up some names and events to get the “punchline.” The literary ones were the best; I was spewing coffee out my nose when I read the one about “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh: WOW. On first glance you may think this is just silliness, but it is so profound. Each “story” in this collection is witty, heartfelt, and thought-provoking. I could see this as being a text in a class on memoir and graphic novels. Okay, just thought of a syllabus in my head. Graphic Novel Memoirs should totally be a thing if it isn’t already.
Fables #20: Camelot, Fairest #1: Wide Awake, and Fables: Wolves of the Heartland all by Bill Willingham: I’m nearly caught up with the Fables series, but I may be losing a bit of steam. I loved the first volume of Fairest and will being reading all the kick-ass volumes in this series. Wolves was a one-off from Fables and provided some more background on Bigby Wolf.
Up next for graphic novels: When about to dig into Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga series and I’m anticipating I’ll want to devour that. It also reminds me that I never finish Y: The Last Man even though I enjoyed the last few volumes. Then I’ll be seeking out some more girl-power from Ms. Marvel and may even pick up some Captain Marvel too. Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire is on down the list as well. I’m tempted to scrap all my plans and devour Noelle Stevenson’s Lumberjanes and Nimona.
Oh yeah… I also have a stack of comics from Free Comic Book day, I could probably knock those out in July.
I can’t even handle how many great things there are to read! Let me know where I should start in my big ole’ pile of graphic novels and increase my anxiety and through more recommendations my way. I’m a glutton for punishment.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Thanks to the Georgia flu much of the world has been wiped out. Many died and died quickly, electricity and communication are totally gone, and those who survive have lived because of luck, wit, and violence. The novel follows several characters in their lives before the flu and what happens to those after the devastation. I especially love that this novel has gobs of Shakespeare in it. The book opens with King Lear and The Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream are sprinkled through out.
I’m giving this book four stars because it was well-written and superbly plotted, BUT it read like Margaret Atwood fanfiction. When I finished the book I just wanted to go re-read the Oryx and Crake trilogy. A friend pointed out that the book also has some elements of The Blind Assassin as well.
Check this book out for sure, but be aware that Atwood fans will be hankering after more Atwood. If you’ve yet to read Atwood, then read Station Eleven first. It is a great book, but pales in comparison to Atwood. I will certainly be checking out other books by Mandel.
~~~ Stats ~~~
Started: 13 May 2015
Finished: 23 May 2015
Stars: 4 out of 5 stars
The True Heart by Sylvia Townsend Warner
I am so hesitant to review this at all as I really didn’t like it. Sukey is a simple orphan, she goes to work as a maid, fails in love with a mentally handicapped boy, they’re separated and then she fights to get him back. I loved the lush descriptions of trees and flowers, but I thought Sukey was dumber than a box of rocks. I should have read the intro, because APPARENTLY this was supposed to be a fairy tale sort of re-telling of Psyche and Cupid. I totally missed that and now I feel like I should re-read it before pronouncing a final judgement. Will I re-read it? Who knows?
~~~ Stats ~~~
Started: 23 May 2015
Finished: 30 May 2015
Challenges: Virago Project / TBR challenge
Stars: 2 out of 5 stars
The White Monkey by John Galsworthy
For some reason this has been my least favorite of the Galsworthy books. Maybe it is because Soames is now sort of moral and that through me for a loop. I dislike Fleur. Michael Mont is likeable, but seems like a throwaway character. It seems like the books are falling into a pattern of love OR relationship –> ennui AND affairs –> some sort of crisis that is never really totally articulated or resolved. Once again, this may be because I was in a book funk after reading The True Heart. I may wait a month or two before picking up the next Galsworthy.
~~~ Stats ~~~
Started: 24 May 2015
Finished: 13 June 2015
Stars: 3 out of 5 stars
To Let is the last installment of John Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga detailing the drama-filled life of the wealthy Forsyte family. Galsworthy would go on to write two more three-book episodes concerning this changing family through the generations. To Let is the story of Soame’s daughter, Fleur, and Irene’s son, Jon, falling in love and the stress it brings on those two hurting families. It is also about the trouble that arises when one keeps family secrets from the young and doesn’t encourage open communication.
~~~ Stats ~~~
To Let by John Galsworthy
Started: 7 April 2015
Finished: 13 April 2015
Stars: 4.5 out of 5 stars
~~~ Stats ~~~
We Are All Simply Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Started: 14 April 2015
Finished: 19 April 2015
Stars: 5 out of 5 stars
What I Read: I finished Susan Higginbotham’s historical fiction novel Her Highness the Traitor at lunch. The novel is narrated by Frances Grey – mother of Jane Grey the nine-day queen – and Jane Dudley — wife of the Duke of Northumberland. The novel traces the Duke of Northumberland’s rise to power and his installation of his daughter-in-law, Jane, as queen of England, many executions, and Mary Tudor’s claiming of the throne of England. There have been many fiction and non-fiction accounts of the Tudor’s history, but I liked that this book was narrated by the two mothers. The women had very little power and instead had to rely on letter writing, flirtation, flattery, giving gifts and being a good hostess to enact any change or to advocate for their loved ones. I will say that the first half of the book felt a little muddled; the chapters switch back and forth from Frances Grey and Jane Dudley. Their “voices” are so similar and found that I often had to look back and refresh my memory on which narration I was reading. After a hundred or so pages I was familiar enough with the household and characters to determine the speakers. By the end of the novel, both women are fully realized and beautifully constructed characters and their sorrow and loss are felt. Although not my favorite Higginbotham novel, this is a good one and I recommend it to Tudor history lovers.
~~~ Stats ~~~
Started: 16 March 2015
Finished: 23 March 2015
Owned/Borrowed/Library: Borrowed from interlibrary loan
Stars: 3.5 out of 5 stars
What I’m reading: I’ve already dipped into a new memoir called It was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell. I think I will either really like it or really hate it. It is a memoir about a woman coming to peace with her body and food after weight loss. I placed a request for it through interlibrary loan because I thought it was about a woman who lost weight and was still unhappy and realized it was her unhealthy relationship with food that was the problem. The back cover blurb is from the host of The Biggest Loser and I *hate* that show with every ounce of my tubby self. They perpetuate eating disorders, but that is a post for another day. I’ll let you know what I think next week.
What’s up Next: More Galsworthy and a Virago novel. The next Forsyte book is To Let and my Virago read for this month will be Mr. Fortune’s Maggot by Sylvia Townsend Warner. Let’s see if I can get both knocked out before the end of the month.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie: I was consumed by this book. Funny, devastating, and poignant, this story is about Arnold Spirit and navigating his life on the reservation and his life as a fairly popular kid at his predominately white high school. The drawings by Ellen Forney add a visual richness to the text. This story is so great for young people. It navigates teen problems like dating and friendship, it addresses poverty and addiction, it speaks about racism and privilege and all tied up with wry musings of a teenage boy. Ugly cry alert; I haven’t cried this much since I read The Book Thief.
~~~ Stats ~~~
Started: 9 March 2015
Finished: 10 March 2015
Owned/Borrowed/Library: Borrowed from university library
Stars: Five out of Five
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Sam gifted me a beautiful Penguin Threads edition of this childhood favorite. This Victorian novella follows the life of Black Beauty, a horse of good-nature and high spirit, from a the time he is a colt until his “retirement” to a happy field to live out the rest of his days. This book isn’t for everyone. I’m sure many people would find it cloyingly sweet and moralistic. Sewell discusses animal abuse and work conditions, but she also manages to add in all sorts of moral lessons from “don’t drink” to “be honest” to “don’t stay out in the rain too long.” This story hit a perfect pitch with me and animal rights are so important to me. There were many beautiful quotations about valuing animal life. Here are a few favorites:
“We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.”
“Do you know why this world is as bad as it is?… It is because people think only about their own business, and won’t trouble themselves to stand up for the oppressed, nor bring the wrong-doers to light… My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.”
~~~ Stats ~~~
Started: 13 March 2015
Finished: 15 March 2015
Challenges: Back to the Classics Challenge — Children’s Classic
Stars: Four out of Five
What’s Up Next: Tonight I’m starting a new volume of Fables (Camelot, #20) and later this week I plan on digging into Susan Higginbotham’s novel about Jane Grey, Her Highness, The Traitor.
The story takes place about a dozen years after the events of The Man of Property. Winifred is having trouble with her irascible husband, Monty, and it seems as if a highly scandalous divorce is her only option. She is being advised by her brother Soames Forsyte. Soames has troubles of his own; he desperately wants a son so that his property and name and can pass on. Soames entertains the notion of marrying Annette, a French girl working in her mother’s restaurant, but dreads divorcing Irene, his estranged wife. Soames still believes that Irene is his property and that she should return to him and give him a son. The entire plot unfolds – complete with scandal, divorce, death, marriage, and children – with Soames as the instigator. The desire of Soames to possess humans in the same way he possesses his picture collection sets off a chain of events that will impact the lives of the Forsytes for decades. I encourage fans of Downton Abbey to pick-up this series. It is a billion times better than Downton Abbey could ever hope to be.
What I’m Reading: I picked up Lucy Knisley’s French Milk yesterday, but I couldn’t get into it. I’m hopeful I’ll start a book that will stick tonight.
What’s Up Next: Sherman Alexie’s the Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I’m really excited about this one.