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Sunday, December 22, 2019

What I've Read Recently | November 2019

Here we are again at nearly the beginning of January and I'm just getting around to telling you 
about what I read (and chose not to finish) in November. 
Better late than never?
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
From Goodreads:
This magnificent novel juxtaposes geographically distant places, brilliant and playful reflections, and a variety of styles, to take its place as perhaps the major achievement of one of the world’s truly great writers.
What I thought: 0/10 (Listened to on Audible)
I couldn't even finish this book! Ugh. First translated to english in 1984 and winner of the Los Angles Times Book Prize for Fiction, it is rated over 4 stars (out of 5) on Goodreads by more than 300,000 readers. Obviously, I'm not clever enough to "get it." The story (if you could call it that) is about infidelity and the writing jumps around all over the place. The only think you can count on is being annoyed by the author's philosophical musing that litter the pages and try to spoon feed the reader a specific interpretation of the events. I didn't care about any of the characters and they certainly didn't care about one another either.

The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore
From Goodreads:
Over the twelve short weeks of summer, these three strangers will meet and grow close, will share secrets and bury lies. And as the promise of June turns into the chilly nights of August, the truth will come out, forcing each of them to decide what they value most, and what they are willing to give up to keep it.
What I thought: 6/10
This was a solid "Beach Read" but the trouble was, I wasn't at the beach when I read it which may have left me longing for a bit more substance in the story. Told from the point of view of three people living on a small island during peak tourist season, there's lots of quintessential settings brought forth on the page (loved that) and the character development was good, given the brevity of the book and the number of voices in the story; however, it dragged in some spots and in the end, felt a little too "Hallmark Movie" for me. This book is for those who love a breezy read, (To be clear, I sometimes do enjoy a breezy read myself. I guess I just wasn't in the mood this time.)

The Huntress by Kate Quinn
From Goodreads:
From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel, The Alice Network, comes another fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.
What I thought: 9/10
I loved this book. I've read my share of WWII historical fiction and have been a fan of most of it. What I found to be special about The Huntress were the strong female "leads" and the fascinating female villain. This book explores a dark and upsetting aspect (as if there were any other kind) of the Nazi program of which I had been ignorant. Additionally, I learned of the Soviet Night Witches --a remarkable and very real all-female regiment of the Red Army lead by Marina Raskova. This book was told from the point of view of three main characters and Kate Quinn does so masterfully. 

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
From Goodreads:
Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
What I thought: 6/10
This is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy that had been on my "to-read" list since early 2013! I love a good vampire/witch story and this one had its moments. There was a lot here to sink your teeth into (pun totally intended and presented to you without shame) in terms of story detail and weaving a web to support the forthcoming story (big build into what looks to be a war between witches, vampires, and daemons all living among humans). Having said that, the "romance" and relationship angst between many of the characters came across thinly in both dialogue and internal thoughts. You know how everyone loves Star Wars but if you just concentrate on the dialogue then it's kinda laughable and juvenile? Yeah, that's how this felt. Which is to say, I will definitely watch the television series and might pick up the next installment, Shadow of Night, someday (perhaps 6 more years out?).

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon
Adapted from Goodreads:
Anne Gallagher grows up in America with her Irish grandfather. After his death, she returns to his childhood home to spread is ashes and is pulled into another time. She finds herself in 1921. Ireland is teetering on the edge of war. Upon awakening, Anne finds herself hurt, disoriented, and under the care of Dr. Thomas Smith, guardian to a young boy who is oddly familiar. Mistaken for the boy’s long-missing mother, Anne adopts her identity, convinced the woman’s disappearance is connected to her own.
What I thought: 8.5/10 (Listened on Audible)
I really enjoyed this book! I listened on Audible and the narrator was exceptional. If you liked Outlander, I imagine you would like this too. Both are time-traveling Irish stories --but please don't let that be a turn-off for you either if you've never read any of the Outlander series and are immediately disinterested in "sci-fi time-traveling." To be honest, I didn't care for the Outlander series. (In book form, that is. I did enjoy the first few seasons of the television series.) What the Wind Knows was romantic and rich in storyline and the historical happenings of the time. I learned so much about the Ireland in the early 1920s as tensions grew with Britain. This story is heartbreaking and passionate and told beautifully. I hope you pick it up!

Normal People by Sally Rooney
From Goodreads:
At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular while she is lonely and intensely private. A strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers. Later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. 
What I thought: 8/10
I loved the writing in this book. The pace was exceptional and I found the character's interactions with one another to be honest and believable. The tension between the characters came through clearly in the passages. I was captivated by Connell and Marianne's relationship. This is not your typical love story. Some might hesitate to classify it as "love" at all --but that's what I'm calling it. I appreciated how Rooney made me feel uncomfortable at times. This story doesn't make you feel good. I found it to be a provocative puzzle about friendship and growing up. Again, I would describe it as a love story but no one would say it was romantic. Normal People was both refreshing and disturbing as it unfolded through the perspective/psyche of these characters. 

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