Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What I Read: August 2013

I thought I'd do a monthly round up of books I've read. This is the first month in a while that I've got some serious reading done (still not that much), as it's the first month that I've been done with graduate school! If I hadn't (re)discovered cross stitch, I would probably be reading pretty much every available moment.

Also, there's still lots of fluff going on in my reading material, but that's about out of my system. You may expect fluff levels to return to normal now. (Speaking of fluff, does anyone else feel like they emotionally read, kind of like emotional eating? Like "I'm stressed and I only want to read light YA fantasy and eat donut holes" or something).

FYI, all of my ratings are out of 5 stars.

Enchated - Alethea Kontis *****
This was a pleasant surprise. I had added this to my to read list a while back, but I wasn't seriously interested in it. Then I saw some good reviews that made it stand out a bit more, so I picked up one day when I randomly saw it at the library. This was original and well-written. The main character is the youngest of seven sisters, all named for days of the week. The main plot isn't what drives this book, though. It's the backstory of all of the characters, main and supporting casts included. Kontis takes fairytales and twists them in clever ways, sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly. Trule a fun read. I gave this five stars immediately after I read it. Looking back, I would probably drop it to four stars, but I try not to change ratings willy nilly so I'll leave it.

Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey - Karen Wilkin ***
I had never heard of Edward Gorey until I received a jigsaw puzzle of some of his art for Christmas (one of my favorite puzzles of all time, actually). I saw this book at the library and picked it up on a whim. The short essay at the beginning was a good introduction to Gorey's life and work, and I enjoyed looking over the drawings that were collected in the book.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories - Karen Russell ****

I wrote about this earlier in the summer. I greatly enjoyed these stories, though they took me longer than expected to read. I think it's because a few were a bit lengthy, and I always felt the need to read them in one sitting. Plus, I forgot I was reading it for a good part of July. Russell does magical realism in a beautiful way, without being over the top or hokey. And these days, to write original fiction about vampires that is actually original (see title story) is no small feat. I will definitely be reading more of Russell in the future. In fact, Swamplandia! has started calling to me from it's spot in one of the living room bookshelves, so it probably won't be too far into the future.

Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England - Carolly Erickson ***
Look, it's nonfiction! This is another one that's been hanging around all summer. I thought this was written in an interesting way for a history book (although I haven't read much of them, so what do I know). There was no clear organization to the topics (the chapters have no headings), and the chapters were really more vignettes about certain aspects of society during the Regency period. 19th-century England is one of my favorite time-place combinations, so I really enjoyed learning more about it. Erickson's writing was conversational, but still well-informed. The details she included made it feel more personal and nothing at all like a history textbook. I will likely look into reading Her Little Majesty, which is about the life of Queen Victoria (something I know virtually nothing about).

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma - Trenton Lee Stewart ****

(Technically, I finished this in September, but just barely, so I'm counting it in August). This was a reread. I wanted to revisit this series before reading The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict which is the prequel to this series. Each of the volumes in this series have been fantastic children's literature, for many reasons, and I highly recommend them to everyone (kids especially, adults also).

That's it for August! A bit of a slow month, but hopefully my reading volume will pick up now that my brain is mostly done recovering from grad school. I'm currently trying to finish up Shadow and Bone, and then I will be tackling Lonesome Dove. I'd like to try to finish it before starting something new, but that rarely ever happens (especially since I have The Cuckoo's Calling (not so) patiently waiting in the wings). We'll see!

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