December 1, 2014

Recent Reads

166. Bad Feminist: Essays
In the midst of reading this book, I tweeted this: Reading an essay or two from Bad Feminist by @rgay when I awake calibrates my anger to just the right level for the day.

Ms. Gay is fast becoming one of my fave author/thinker/feminist. I want her to be my BFF, so I can tease her mercilessly for her penchant for bad TV shows and Sweet Valley High love.

What is this collection of essays about? Well, everything really: TV shows, gender, movies, politics, social media, women, men, society, books, music, sexism, racism, Scrabble. No, that's not all, I'm simply tired of typing. Just read it for yourself. This collection is a thought provoking critique of our society today. Not all the essays are fab, but they are all worth reading and pondering.

This collection of essays is going to make you angry, and if you are already angry, it'll make you angrier, and if you are not already angry and you are woman, check your pulse. I would not recommend reading this collection in one or even two sittings. Give yourself time for your blood pressure to return to normal for a few hours before reading the next one.
  Rating: 5 stars.

167. Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything
Maira Kalman brings her signature artistic style and wit to this biography of Thomas Jefferson targeted at the very young reader. I am a fan of Jefferson, and Maira captures a balanced portrayal of both his greatness and his flaws. While reading this one, I was reminded of my visit to Monticello last year, a place well worth a visit. Rating: 3 stars.

168. To the Lighthouse
The audiobook is wonderfully narrated by Juliet Stevenson. Remember how I said she was going to read all the classics to me? Thought I was kidding did you? I was not.

As far as I can recall, this is the first book I've read by Virginia Woolf, and it popped to the top of my TBR pile as assigned reading for the Fiction of Relationship Coursera class I'm taking this Fall. 

This is a story told in three parts, and the writing is luminous throughout. I loved Part One. The cast of characters are delightful. The random stream of consciousness and scenes captured fun. And Mrs. Ramsay. I think I've got a crush on Mrs. Ramsay. Part Two is wonderful at capturing the atmosphere of an empty house, and has some of the best writing I've ever read about loss, and the passage of time. Then we get to Part Three, and I'm not sure what point the author was making. Is it that you might not be around to see an idea come to fruition, but others you have inspired will? I honestly do not know, and I am so glad to have a series of lectures to help educate me.

Still, a book worth reading, and I am sure it will not be the last book I'll read by Ms. Woolf. Rating: 3 stars.

169. A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)
I've been patiently waiting for all the books to be published before starting this first book in the All Souls Trilogy. Vampires, Witches and Daemons Oh My. I should have loved this book. It is right in my sweet spot.

The planet is populated with four sentient beings - humans, witches, vampires and daemons - and there are strict rules about how the creatures must behave so as not to attract human attention. And after a history of witch burning and vampire hunts, who can blame them for wanting to keep a low profile? Enter Diana Bishop. She is no ordinary witch, but the offspring of two powerful witch genealogies. While doing some research, she finds a long lost book. One that all the creatures want. One that might explain everything. And if that were not enough to put her in danger, she finds herself attracted to a vampire, and cross species liaisons are forbidden. Supernatural beings, a book mystery, and an interesting exploration of evolutionary biology. See what I mean? My sweet spot. 

Now, I'll admit that Anne Rice set the vampire and witch genre bar really high, and the vampires in this story do not sparkle - that would have been a non starter - but while I liked the story, it would have benefited from tighter editing. There were too many tangents that did not add to the story line. Also, I am not a fan of romance novels - paranormal or otherwise - and there was more than a whiff of that. Another issue is that when an author starts out to write a trilogy, they have 600 x 3 pages or so to fill, and there is a lot of filler stuff. This would have been a much tighter story if it had been a standalone novel. 

Still, it is a good debut novel, and the 600 or so pages are a quick and fun read. I plan to read the next book in the trilogy hoping that the writing is better and the editing tighter. Rating: 3 stars.

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