Friday, September 22, 2017

The Bear and the Nightengale by Katherine Arden

Title: The Bear and the Nightengale
Author: by Katherine Arden
Pages: 319
Finished: September 21, 2017

First Sentence:  It was late winter in Northern Rus', the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow. 

Summary: Vasilisa's mother died in childbirth, leaving the girl with the ability to see all the old spirits of Rus'. Years later, her father travels to Moscow to remarry. He brings home a devout Christian woman who, with the help of a new Priest, forbids the town to leave offerings to the old spirits. Winters become harsher than normal. Crops, livestock, and people fail and die. Only Vasilisa sees whats happening and does what she can to keep everyone alive, even though it labels her a witch.

Thoughts: This may be one of my favorite books from this year. The book started a little slow, but once Pyotr remarried, I was hooked. Vasilisa is exactly the type of character I love. Headstrong, compassionate, and very independent. I'm also a complete sucker for stories of old religions fighting to stay relevant while Christianity tries to take over. Mostly though, I was ver impressed with the world building in this story. So very immersive.

Read for the retellings challenge.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

Title: Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Author: Salman Rushdie
Pages: 216
Finished: September 19, 2017

First Sentence: There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name.

Summary: Haroun must travel to the Ocean of Stories to get his father's Storytelling powers back.

Thoughts: Read for my Personal Reading Challenge category of Book by a Nonwestern Author.

Full disclosure, when I started looking up books from non-western authors, the things that kept popping up were super depressing. There are a number of super depressing books on the Caudill list this year too, and I couldn't bring myself to read another very depressing book. My heart can only take so much emotion. So when a coworker suggested this one and labeled it as whimsical, I said yes.

And it was full of whimsy. I knew little about it other than her brief description, but I found I adored it. It has a similar feel to Alice in Wonderland or Wizard of Oz where no one is really in as much danger as it seems and everything is solved fairly easily, but I wanted that. All in all, this book came at the right time for me. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud

Title: The Empty Grave
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Pages: 427
Finished: September 15, 2017

First Sentence: Want to hear a ghost story?

Summary: The finale of Stroud's Lockwood & Co series. Penelope Fittes has forbade Locwood & Co from doing anything other than dealing with the most simple of hauntings. Fittes Agency is also starting to take over all other small Agencies in London. Any heads of agencies who hold out end up mysteriously dead. And furthermore, after The Skull's assertions that Penelope Fittes is actually Marissa Fittes, the woman who started Fittes Agency back when the Problem began, Lockwood and company find themselves researching her as stealthily as they can.

Thoughts: One of my favorite things about this series is how Lucy has grown as a person. Some of her character flaws that bothered me have been smoothed away as she's grown up.

The book tied up the main question that I had regarding The Problem (though the tie up was fairly predictable as the series went on.) I particularly enjoyed their foray into The Other Side where we learned more about some things that were happening. I also appreciated some of the storylines being implied rather than spelled out. There's plenty of room for fan fiction fodder. All in all, I'm glad I read this series. A great fall read with Halloween around the corner.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Title: Journey to the Center of the Earth
Author: Jules Verne
Pages: 280
Finished: September 14, 2017

First Sentence: Looking back to all that has occurred to me since that eventful day, I am scarcely able to believe in the reality of my adventures.

Summary: Axle's uncle, Professor Lindenbrock, discovers an old Icelandic manuscript that mentions there's a path to get to the center of the Earth. Lindenbrock is more than happy to follow the hint to Iceland where he and his nephew hire a guide and do, indeed, journey as far into the earth as they can get, though the journey is not without it's perils.

Thoughts: I can safely say I wasn't a huge fan. First of all, the names in my translation were all different. The nephew was Harry. The uncle Hardwigg.  I didn't even realize the names were different until I googled the book to find the uncle's name and found a completely different name than I had been reading.

As I summed up to my parents during our book discussion: the uncle's a pompous ass, the nephew a wet blanket, and the book is full of out of date and bad science. the book wasn't particularly interesting. Every time a new part of their journey started, I though, "Oh good. Here it's going to get interesting." And every time I was disappointed and bored. Perhaps I had a bad translation, or perhaps something about this novel doesn't hold up for me. In terms of classics, this is definitely on the snore end of the spectrum.

I was a bit surprised too because I remember really enjoying Around the World in 80 Days. But then, I guess not every book by every author is going to be a winner.

Read for Back to the Classics Book in Translation.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud

Title: The Creeping Shadow
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Pages: 435
Finished: September 3, 2017

First Sentence: I knew at once, when I slipped into the moonlit office and eased the door shut behind me, that I was in the presence of the dead.

Summary: Lucy has enjoyed the last few months working freelance for various agencies, for the most part. Of course few agencies work as well as Lockwood and Co did, but she doesn't like to think about that... until the day that Lockwood asks to hire her for a case. While helping him there, someone breaks into her apartment and steals her skull-in-a-jar. As usual, things spiral out of control. The big haunt the team is originally hired for ends up helping them find the even bigger haunt that resolves the plot of the story.

Thoughts: Okay, these books may be a little formulaic, but I'm really enjoying them! They're the right level of scary for me. Enough that I don't like reading them right before bed in case I have to walk around the house at night. I definitely have to finish cases at the very least before turning out the light. I liked Lucy getting more sure of herself and less obnoxious towards Holly. (Because really, the jealousy thing was a bit difficult to keep reading. It really undermined the character for me.)

I had a decent idea of a lot of revelations except the one at the very end. It definitely took me by surprise and I'm very happy I waited until now to read it! The next book comes out tomorrow (September 12) and I already have it on hold at work, so it should be in my hands by Wednesday. Thursday at the latest.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Slade House by David Mitchell

Title: Slade House
Author: David Mitchell
Pages: 238
Finished: August 29, 2017

First Sentence: Whatever Mum's saying's drowned out by the grimy roar of the bus pulling away, revealing a pub called The Fox and Hounds.

Summary: Every nine years, someone finds a small, black iron door in the wall of Slade Alley. When they open it, they find themselves in the backyard of Slade House, a house too large to fit in the space provided. They find themselves in a place that absolutely fits with what they're looking for. Friendship. Companionship. Answers to questions. Even when things start to seem wrong, they don't leave. Every nine years, someone goes into Slade House and never comes out. Every nine years.

Thoughts: The only other Mitchell book I've read is Cloud Atlas, a book I really enjoyed. I picked this one up, concerned at the fact that it was a "haunted house" story, but found myself loving it. I had a hard time putting it down. I enjoyed how each person's story was written so differently, and I enjoyed how we found out more about what was happening with each subsequent visit to Slade House. Some words in the book were familiar from Cloud Atlas. When I looked it up, I discovered that, while each of his novels stands alone, Mitchell does view his novels as one great novel. So now I'm thinking about starting a new reading project in the future to read his books in publication order. Also, I was pleased that, for a haunted house story, this didn't really freak me out. I could read it at night and not have trouble sleeping.

Read for Personal Reading Challenges - book by browsing. Found re-browsing the Ms after putting the McKinley down.

September Reads

The Bear and the Nightingale - Retellings Challenge
The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud (Not Pictured)
Eleven Birthdays by Wendy Mass - Bluestem Challenge
The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud (Not Pictured)
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie - Personal Reading Challenge
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne - Back to the Classics Challenge
I Am Princess X by Arthur A. Levine - Caudill Challenge
Last in a Long Line of Rebels by Nancy Paulsen - Caudill Challenge
The Odyssey by Homer - Back to the Classics Challenge
The Scarecrow of Oz by L Frank Baum - Wizard of Oz Challenge
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin - Bluestem Challenge

Another very ambitious list. I looked at the calendar and realized many challenges are coming to an end soon. I have until February of 2018 for the Bluestem and Caudill challenges, so I'm pushing those books to the end of the month. The Stroud books aren't part of any challenge, but the fifth (and hopefully final) book comes out this month. I didn't read book four because I wanted to wait for this last one. I'm really excited for the book I picked for my personal challenge, and the book on my retellings challenge.