22 March TWO Weeks in Reading

Oops. I have been lax in my blogging and reviews… I fully intended to do this at least once a week (that is, after acknowledging that I might possibly not write a full review each time I finish a book.) And while my posts shouldn’t strictly be called reviews, because they’re usually just my impressions of a book, I do want to be consistent in documenting  my reading life.  My comments won’t be as helpful, even to myself, if I let so much time go by that my impressions are no longer fresh. That said, I’ve finished a number of books in the past fortnight.

I chose Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay on the recommendation of an author friend whose favorites I generally enjoy. I don’t read a lot of fantasy literature but I’m not averse to trying new authors occasionally. This book was beautifully written, with many lovely passages and phrases. The settings were realistic and one could easily forget that it would be considered fantasy simply because the nations described have never existed. There were parts of the book that I loved, and others that dragged. I don’t believe I’ll go on with the rest of the series because it didn’t grab me enough to feel compelled, but I did enjoy my time with this one.  Four stars.

Next up was a perfectly delightful selection for one of my book clubs (and in fact for our city’s Big Read): The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I laughed and laughed through this, not least because I recognize so many of the traits in the person of someone I love. Don Tillman is a genetics professor who also happens to have Asperger’s. His lack of social awareness is often breathtaking, but he approaches every known problem with very (as in v-e-r-y) specific plans. When Rosie comes into his life it upsets more than his routines, it makes him begin to see the world through slightly-adjusted eyes. It’s truly a fun read, but it also worked very well in the book club setting, as there was so much to talk about. This club generally sticks very closely to its one hour allotment, but we ran far beyond that this time.  Four stars.

I had heard good things about H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald and had very much enjoyed the discussion of this book on a recent “Inside The New York Times Book Review” podcast so I requested that my local public library add it to their collection and when it came in I dived right in. I’ve always loved animals of (nearly) all sorts, and the story of the author grieving the death of her father and then acquiring a baby goshawk and training her and the cross-species bonding that resulted was fascinating to me. I did not expect that so much of the book would be talking about the author T. H. White (he of The Once and Future King fame) who had also written a book about his experiences while training a goshawk. Those passages were often painful to read (the best intentions don’t always lead to the right methods) but Macdonald goes back to the accounts, and her thoughts on White’s experiences, over and over and over. I’m not sure it added to my enjoyment of this book, and this wasn’t quite as magical a read as I’d expected, but it’s still a solid four stars from me.

Although I have several books in progress, my most recent finish was for the same book club mentioned above, for our April discussion. I’d long meant to read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, and this clearly was the time to do so. I can see why it’s an important book, as it was one of the earlier English accounts (in translation) to show us the rich social constructs of African cultures, with no stereotypical assumptions of colonialism, and to that extent it was successful. I can’t say I really enjoyed the stories, but I expect that our club discussion will enlarge my appreciation for this one. Right now I’d give it three stars.

None of these books will help toward any of my 2015 reading challenges, but they all add to my year in reading.

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