Book 71: Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal – J.K. Rowling

Rowling, JK - Harry Potter y la piedra filosofalI’ve had a copy of this book on my bookshelf since undergrad. I bought it when I was still taking Spanish classes and could probably have read it a hell-of-a-lot easier back then that now, but I never made it past the first few chapters no matter how many times I tried. This time, with my 30th birthday looming and it being one of the final three items on my 30×30 list I pushed through and finished it!

I’ll talk more about reading it in Spanish in my 30×30 item post, this is just a recap of the story. This is the second time I’ve read the first Harry Potter book while blogging, the first was back in July 2012. And as with every time I re-read the first novel in the series I’m amazed at how much world-building (adapting) Rowling does in such a short novel. Sure she spreads it out over the first few, but introducing so may ideas and people within such a short span AND telling a story wow.

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Book 35: The Fall of Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #2) – Dan Simmons

Simmons, Dan - The Fall of HyperionWhat a follow-up! After reading Hyperion, the first in the Hyperion Cantos, I immediately moved into the second! So glad Alex gave us both of them or I wouldn’t have known what to do, or I would’ve gone out and bought it. Although the style changed from the first novel, this one was just as strong and incredibly intelligent. There are definitely spoilers after the next paragraph so you’ve been warned.

The start of this book was a bit more confusing than the first, again it starts in the middle of the story, but with different characters. Rather than immediately going back to our seven pilgrims and their stories, Simmons introduces us to Joseph Severn, another cybrid (originally a John Keats), and brings in the character Meina Gladstone, CEO of the hegemony and mentioned many times in the previous book. There are of course other characters and they all add to the amazing story, but the core group remain the same.

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Book 34: Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #1) – Dan Simmons

Simmons, Dan - HyperionIf there is a novel that could make someone fall in love with and/ or enjoy Science Fiction, this is the novel. My friend Alex gave Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion, along with a couple of other books, to our house for Christmas. When I asked him which ones I should read he specifically said these and boy was he right! I was so excited finishing this one up, while I was purchasing a guidebook for my sister I picked up the third book in the Hyperion Cantos (four books) and will definitely read all of them.

This review WILL NOT contain spoilers, but no promises for the rest of the Cantos. The way I read, I read an entire series as one story and sometimes blend things together not knowing what comes from which particular installment, but the first one is always easiest to keep spoiler free. What was most exciting about this novel and what kept me so interested was Simmons’ intelligence and writing ability!

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Book 58: Seating Arrangements – Maggie Shipstead

Shipstead, Maggie - Seating ArrangementsFor a book that has this much hype I expected it to have a lot more impact upon completion. Perhaps I just didn’t understand it and the impact’s subtlety was lost on me. I will say re-reading the last line again increased the impact, but I honestly thought the denouement would be much more dramatic and or conclusive rather than sort of wishy-washy-ing its way to a finale.

Don’t get me wrong, this was not a bad book, it was incredibly well written and the number of lines that made me laugh out loud or that I had to re-read because of how beautiful written they were far outnumbered the issues I had with the book. What got me though is how little action there was in the book. It felt almost like a set of actions stuck on repeat. and that just didn’t do it for me. Thankfully the writing was so great that it pushed the story forward, but I’m still not sure about most of the hype for the book.

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Book 48: To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Lee, Harper - To Kill A MockingbirdWhat a great re-read. This was required reading in high school and I remember reading it, but I had little-to-no recollection of the story other than the major plot points. This re-read counts for my Back to the Classics, a bonus for my Mount TBR and The Classics Club reading challenges.

Before you read my review read the To Kill A Mockingbird review in the list of 19 Depressing One Star Reviews of Classic Literature and then once the shock has fully settled in you can come back and read my review.

As bad as the review is, it’s not necessarily wrong in many aspects; this novel is a very specific and very short novel, but I would not go anywhere near so far as the person who wrote the review. I can easily see where someone would not be impressed with the book for its slow pace, but that’s what I love about it. Lee sets the setting, and thus the book, up perfectly:

“People moved slowly then. They ambled across the square, shuffled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything. A Day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County.” (5)

So you can’t say you weren’t warned, I mean come on its page FIVE. However, where I disagree is the characters and their one dimension-ness according to the reviewer.

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Book 25: Cujo – Stephen King

King, Stephen - CujoOne of my friends put it best, ‘So apparently Cujo is just a bad lifetime movie with a rabid dog’ and although he was referring to the movie, it pretty much sums up the book as well. I just was not impressed and couldn’t get into the novel. The major plus side was that it felt like a short novel.

If you haven’t figured it out yet I didn’t enjoy this book. I am glad I can now say I’ve read a Stephen King novel but overall it was lack-luster and disappointing. I didn’t choose to read this novel on my own, it was the selection for our April Books into Movies library book group. So my disparaging review is totally legit. I did have major issues with the formatting of this book. I read this book through Overdrive from my local library and somewhere during the conversion process a lot of mistakes were processed. It was really distracting and felt more like a galley than an actual published book.

I had a lot of problems with the book especially after it started out with such a good sense of terror and what was to come. I definitely freaked out within the first ten pages, but that feeling slowly disappeared and never returned, a lot of this had to do with King’s writing. It felt like he was writing down to his readers, almost dumbing things down for them and this bothered me. (I will provide a caveat that I read this in the middle of reading Middlemarch which is incredibly well written.)

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Book 1: Vernon God Little – DBC Pierre

Pierre, DBC - Vernon God LittleAlthough the year has changed, reading must continue :-D For my first book of 2013 I used random.org to pull one from my shelves and it was definitely an experience.

As usual after I purchased the book I put it out of my mind and then when I go to read it I just start without reading anything about the book and thus begin without preconceived notions. This works for and against me all the time, for this book it definitely worked for me because if I had read a synopsis I probably would not have read the book at this time (see paragraph 5).

For a Man Booker Prize winning novel it was relatively easy to read. (It also won the Whitbread Award for First Novel.) I haven’t read any others from the year, but Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (read 09/13) is of course on my list. Overall I think this book serves as a great conversation starter, but as I read it I had to wonder why it won the award. Compared to many of the other Booker winners it felt lacking. Take for example other winning or nominated coming of age stories, such as Paddy Clarke Ha Ha HaRoomNever Let Me Go, or any other book with a child narrator, and Vernon God Little just isn’t up to par. I will say however, it does warrant a comparison to A Confederacy of Dunces (on Wikipedia). I can see the similar humor and writing style, but this, perhaps because of the child narrator, is preferable.

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