27 August 2014

Summer Reading

This summer I took advantage of some good reading time. After finishing any book, I always begin to formulate a review for it but those thoughts never seem to get put down anywhere. Instead, here are some belated thoughts. Maybe in the future I'll be better about reviews. If you want a more to-the-minute idea of what I'm reading and are into Goodreads, I have one of those. I really just use it as a virtual bookshelf, though, and never post reviews.

Wildwood, Colin Meloy
I wanted to read this book because it's written by the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, The Decemberists. They have a very operatic, storytelling style to every album (which I really dig), so I had a pretty good idea that this young adult novel would follow in the same vein and be something up my alley. I was right. It's about an enchanted wood near Portland (another plus because I am a Portlandia fan) and one girl's quest to save her brother from a kidnapping by crows, complete with animals that talk to humans and humans that talk to plants. I liked the story, but what I thought was the really neat part was the great vocabulary used to tell the story. Can't beat a book with great words.

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
A while back I remember seeing trailers for a movie where Keira Knightley was an organ donation clone and thinking that was gross. I don't know what changed in the years between the movie coming out and this summer, but I saw the book on the shelf and was immediately intrigued by the idea instead of disgusted. And I am really glad I read this book. It's a kind of science fiction that seems to be set in the past but also seems to be incredibly timeless. The premise is a love triangle between three characters that are in a generation of human clones being brought up for the purpose of providing healthy organs for "real" humans. But, as if love triangles aren't dramatic enough, these three must deal with going through realizing what they are and their purpose for existence and the complexity that it adds to their situation. The thing that hit me the most about this book was the incredible characterization. Manipulation just oozes off the page with Ruth's every interaction. It is unbelievable. Then I watched the movie and it unfortunately didn't quite portray the characters with all the richness that they had in the book. The movie shows one girl clone being a bully to another girl clone until they give all of their organs away. The book is much, much more than that.

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This book was recommended to me by a guy who sat down next to me in the student center after he told me about his girlfriend breaking up with him but how much he still loved her. He was really adamant about the magical and life changing imagery of ice in the first chapter. It took four years and the recommendation from a few more sources before I actually read the book, but I still remembered that and was really looking forward to this ice imagery. I think that guy is nuts. Yeah, I read about the ice, but it's the very last paragraph of the first chapter and hardly magical or life changing. I kept reading, though, and many times I wondered why. The plot follows through generations of an isolated South American village's founding family and the troubles that they all seem to get into. To be honest, the thing was very tedious for me except for two things: at one point I read a line about a scorpion and looked down to find a real life scorpion crawling on the floor and actually thought for a nanosecond that I was a silvertongue, and the final paragraph that made me exclaim, "no way. nooooo way" outwardly and inwardly think "Gael Garcia Bernal, you tricky, tricky genius." (I get the author and the actor confused.) I was certain that nothing on earth was going to make me enjoy that book, and then he went and gave it a perfect ending and it was so worth it.

Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings, Christopher Moore
Brandoggy recommended this book for a fun summer read and that is exactly what it was. In it, a whale watching scientist is swallowed up by a whale-like boat and is held hostage in an underwater civilization. It was humorous and wacky and new and I enjoyed it a lot.

Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, Marcus Luttrell
I bought this book on my nook account because all of the men in my family enjoyed it a lot, but never got around to reading it that summer that I used my nook. This summer, on days when I had no work to do whatsoever but needed to look like I was working, I would pull up the ebook and tell myself that it would do for a scholarly article if anyone shot a passing glance at my screen. The story of survival is really incredible and I learned a ton about SEAL training.

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
I touched on this earlier, but this book was recommended to me by Kerry. It tells of a young married English woman who passes through time back to the Scottish highlands, and her friendship and eventual romance with a Highlander. Is it cheesy? Yes. Is it predictable? Maybe. Is it enjoyable? Heck yes. All in all, it's a really captivating story that sucked me in and made me never want to put it down. I have to say that it was kind of convenient that she's not super duper in love with her first husband. A little more tension or hesitation there might have made things a bit more interesting. This is the first in a series, though, so maybe more of that comes later.

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
This book has one of the most interesting narrative structures that I've read in a while. The main character is born and dies. The next chapter, a slight change occurs in the same story and she lives. This keeps happening over and over and you experience her life multiple times, each time she dies and each time the story picks back up at a different point in her life with either a slight change or a drastic change from the previous story that alters her impact on the people around her. While you don't know if she's aware of dying and living again, you do know that she experiences premonitions and sometimes acts to change the course of events and butterfly effects things. It's good, and keeps you thinking long after you finish. I enjoyed it because of that, and because it examines the "everything you do affects those around you" thing (that can sometimes be overdone) in a really creative way. 


  1. I saw on Goodreads that you're reading The Goldfinch right now. Definitely let me know what you think when you're done--I've been daunted by its size and the mixed reviews.

    1. Will do! My trick to books of daunting size is to get them on my nook - cheaper and I'm not so obviously reminded by how much I have left to read :P