Oh dear, 12 books read this month. With the Mock Printz, the read aloud that Matt and I are doing and the generally cold and dreary weather I have failed at my goal of reading no more than 75 books this year. Geez.
Order of the Stick War & XP
Matt and I Read Aloud
Berlew leaves our Order in grave–literally, in one case–disorder by the end of this very thick book of comics.
There are too many people! They all have the same name! I have no idea what’s going on! Richard III spends a lot of time telling people how bad he is! But he really is!
As usual, much better when the actors bring it to life.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Recommended by my friend Kristen, I liked this book for a variety of reasons. It was set in 1899, rural Texas, but the main character’s family was quite well off. I feel like a lot of books set in the frontier west focus on the poor and struggling, so this was a nice change of pace. The main character was quite engaging, being the middle child with three brothers on either side. The struggles she had maturing into a new life stage were engaging, and her family was well formed for such a large bunch. Also, the writing was very good, especially for a YA novel. And it was funny in places, which always makes reading enjoyable. This would be a great book for someone who has never read–but is interested in–YA fiction.
Matt and I read aloud
This was a fabulous read-aloud book because the writing is quite good, the passages through life are very apt and the dialogue is a pleasure to speak. It is an even better read-aloud with your opposite sex significant other, because one of you can do the female parts and the other do the male parts. (I’m sure same sex couples would also have fun too.) Now that I’ve seen the movie I can heartily entreat you to bypass it altogether and just read the darn book.
13 Little Blue Envelopes
I’ve been submerged in Shakespeaere, and the long slow and–frankly–very boring book One Hundred Years of Solitude for nearly a month. I’ve just received the Mock Printz list and noticed it contains 10 books all of which look to be rather tense and/or grim. There is going to be a lot of buckling down reading in the next few months. What to do? Realize that I haven’t yet read anything by Maureen Johnson, wander over to the YA stacks and grab the first book I see by her. Then: devour it in a 24 hour period.
I’ve been meaning to check out Maureen Johnson since I began watching the Vlog Brothers, and I found her just as delightful as John Green was telling me she would be. This book had a great premise: Flighty Aunt sends niece a letter and money and tells her to follow the directions of that letter and the 12 following. It was fun and funny and had a plot twist I didn’t anticipate. After clearing my head with this bit of delight I could plow through the last 40 pages of Marquez’ tome. Maureen Johnson was just what the doctor (or perhaps Youth Librarian) ordered.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Read for Kenton Book Club
The nice thing about book club is that I’m forced to think more deeply about why I don’t like books. In the normal order of things, I would have set this book down, bored and frustrated around page 50 and it would have been returned to the library eventually. Because we were discussing it for book group, I wanted to finish it, even though I didn’t like it. First off, finishing it for book group sometimes pays off as with Inez of my Soul where there was a twist at the end that (mostly) made the book worth reading. This book, alas, had no such thing. But as it was such a long book (417 pages) I spent a very long time analyzing what I didn’t like. And here is my list.
1) I think when this was written there wasn’t really magical realism in literature and so it was this new crazy thing that everyone was quite astounded by. However, now that magical realism is everywhere, this book is just a so-so entry.
2)I was not a fan of the very fluid timeline. Several times I found myself wondering how old a character was, which took me out of the book.
3)The characters having the same names? Very confusing. And not in a good way.
4)The writing style (or translation) was not something that drew me in. I found it very flat.
5)I didn’t really like any of the characters. And spending 417 pages with a bunch of people with the same name that you don’t really like is not very fun.
6)I did, however, perfect the talent of falling asleep while balancing the book on my chest while reading this book.
Interestingly, the book club members didn’t really like it either. Reactions ranged from “Well, I’m glad I have read it, though I didn’t enjoy the reading” to “I absolutely loved this 25 years ago and spent this rereading wondering what I liked so much” to “I could have done with 50 years of solitude, but one hundred years was a bit much.”
Despite our dislike, our discussion was rich and interesting.
The Order of the Stick: Start of Darkness
The book that we learn that Xykon is pure evil while Red Cloak is not actually evil, but has instead made a series of increasingly bad decisions.
(In our house this emerged as: “You know, I think Red Cloak is the George W. Bush, but Xykon is the Dick Cheney of the Order of the Stick World.”)
Anne of Windy Poplars
I sort of get the feeling, reading this book, that L.M. Montgomery was often trapped in rooms with eccentric women who nattered on. I get this feeling mostly because Anne keeps getting trapped in rooms with eccentric women nattering on. Character development was nil here. Anne encounters different people over three years and manages to happily change all of their lives. Except that eight year old boy the author killed off so that another character could have a happy ending. She writes letters to Gilbert narrating her life, but we never hear anything from him. This lack of development of the main character’s fiance seems like a rather large oversight. As their relationship has gotten more serious, we have heard less and less from him. And characters from the previous book are completely missing. What’s up with Priscilla? How is she adjusting to being a minister’s wife? I realize they live in different places now, but couldn’t she even write?
I still enjoyed reading this, but I think Montgomery is coasting a bit. Also, the cover of the edition I read annoyed me. Here is Anne, a B.A. and principal of the school and they’ve got her walking around in dresses the length she would have worn as a fourteen year old. Where is her mature woman dress? Where?
Read for Mock Printz
I sort of didn’t like this book from the beginning and now I’ve read it to the end and can clearly state that I don’t feel it was a good book. Let us examine the ways.
Setting. This book was ostensibly set in early 20th century small English village, though none of the characters struck me as anything other than modern in their thoughts, actions or deeds. If one of them would have pulled out a cell phone and started texting, I don’t think it would have registered as something out of the ordinary. Also, there is a magical realism element to this novel, but it felt forced, as if everyone was trying very hard to talk about the witches, etc. but the effect was neither magical nor real to me.
Writing. The cover tells me it is a “beautifully written” book, but I found the style quite grating. The repetitive sentences were, I believe, supposed to give me insight into the tormented mind of the main character, but instead inspired a lot of tormentation of my mind. Perhaps the overwroght-ness would appeal better to a teenager. Also, I found the names of the magical elements rather immature in nature: Mucky Hand, Boggy Man. Grownups went around saying those names and I think grownups would not want to be uttering toddler-type names for long.
Characters. I got pretty clear pictures of the main ones, but things were a bit hazy with the narrative and everyone else sort of faded into the background.
Narrative. By the time the plot had wrapped itself up, nothing was a surprise to me, because so much of it had been hinted at before.
Blink & Caution
Read for Mock Printz
When I received the list of ten books to read for the Mock Printz discussion, I groaned. A cursory check revealed them to all be grim/tense. I’m a fan of grim/tense, though not for 10 books in a row. After wading through Chime, I got ready to force myself through this book. Happily, I was reminded that not all the books we read are bad.
This one fell into the “tense” category, but it was tense in a way that made me cast off my other reading and just rip through the book. The characters were great, incredibly likable, not perfect and street smart. I loved that it was set in Canada (authors live in Canada too? I had no idea!) and encompassed both city and country. This would be a great read for a reluctant boy reader and girls will like it too. There is mention of sex/amateur porn in the beginning, but it’s alluded too and not graphic. Overall, a very good read and so far my favorite of the Mock Printz books I’ve read.
If you could sort my Goodreads Shakespeare reviews and read them all at once you would find they all say the same thing: Bor-ing! Boring, boring, boring! This one too. However, it does help to read them before we see the play as I discovered when we abruptly moved our tickets up a week and I hadn’t read the fifth act. My mind wandered a lot more during that act then the others because I didn’t know what was coming. So I will keep reading these boring plays before seeing them brought to life by actors who know what they are doing.
The Berlin Boxing Club
Read for Mock Printz
In my normal reading life, I’ve been avoiding books about the Holocaust. I know that this period in world history provides a lot of drama and pathos and many themes to explore, but I’m tired of reading about it. So I avoid. But my Mock Printz booklist is apparently not aware of my “No Nazis” rule and so I read this book set in 1930’s Berlin. I remarked earlier that my list of ten Mock Printz books are all either tense or depressing. This falls into the depressing category, with a bit of tension thrown in. Despite these marks against it, I liked the book. It was well written and I felt the plot brought to life the decreasing freedoms the Jewish people of Germany experienced in the 1930s. I’ve read about it in the history books, of course, but the main character’s experience made it much more real. It was especially interesting to see the difference for the main character, who did not look Jewish and found it much easier to move about the streets, with his sister, who looked very Jewish and experienced much more harassment.
The boxing sections were interesting too. I was particularly taken with the idea of “the 300.” That would be 100 push ups, 100 sit ups, 50 pull ups and 50 minutes of running. In the book, Max Schmelling proscribed that daily fitness routine for aspiring boxers. Inspired, I attempted a 300 of my own, and like the main character’s experience, my first 300 lackluster, clocking in only at was 51.
I felt that there could have been more illustrations and–contrary to my usual feelings–I would have liked some sort of epilogue. But this was a good read and I finished it ahead of schedule which I take to be a good sign. This is another “good for boys” book. If they are Jewish or into boxing I suspect they would like it that much more.
Started but did not finish.
This was a promising book. A friend recommended it most forcefully. I started it, but got bogged down in other books that come with deadlines to finish so this went back to the library. Another time.