January 25, 2016

Recent Reads

171. The Song of Achilles
What you need to know about me before you read this review is that I am huge fan of Greek mythology and the Trojan Wars in particular. When there was a chance we would not be able to take a tour of Troy on a recent trip to Turkey, I was ready to declare war myself.

Now to this particular book. I'd read such rave reviews about this one that I was actually leery of picking it up. That so many people rated this book so highly makes me wonder if we read the same book.

This is the story of the Trojan War from Patroclus' point of view. He meets Achilles at a young age, and soon the boys become tightly bonded, and it is not a spoiler to say, then lovers. I liked how the author creatively filled in some of the gaps in the original story, but the writing is not good, the characters bland, and the story rather boring. How one makes the Trojan War boring is something that still stuns me. This read like a cross between a sappy romance and chick-lit novel, and while I liked how it started, the only reason I did not bail after about 50 pages was because I did enjoy visiting with Achilles, and all the other characters that I know so well.

So, while it won the Orange Prize and is loved by many, I am not the right audience for this book. There are many wonderful books written about the Trojan War, but this was unfortunately not one of them. Rating: 1 star.

172. Travels with Charley: In Search of America
I love travelogues. As Steinbeck says, no two people have the same journey, though our itinerary might be similar. We bring who we are to our travels.

I started this on a long road trip, which by the way is the perfect time to read about the author and his dog taking an American road trip, and the audiobook is well narrated by Ron McClarty.

The writing is direct without any flourishes, and I really loved how the memoir started. However it lost me somewhere about a third of the way through, and then it meandered in a manner that made no sense to me at all. While most pet owners can relate to the long conversations we have with our pets, we at no time share the content of these conversations with others. Steinbeck decides to let us in, and while there are some fun parts, it really sounds like the ramblings of someone who needs to get out more! This was first published in 1962, and the somewhat misogynist overtones did not sit well with me either.Thankfully, the last hour or so of the book gets back on track, but I do confess that the only reason I finished the book was because it was by Steinbeck.

I'd give this a 2.5 star rating, and will round up due to the wonderful opening sections of this story. Rating: 3 stars.

173. The Sketchbook Project World 
Blurb: Destined to go down as one of the era's most astonishing global art projects, the Brooklyn Art Library's Sketchbook Project has, in less than a decade, amassed more than thirty thousand sketchbooks submitted by people of all ages and artistic abilities from more than 130 countries.

Books like this just make me happy. This book is a curated set of pages from this project, and it makes me happy thinking about the wonderful ways people are creative all over the world. Yes, you could go online and look at the digitized pages, and I'd recommend that you do that, but sometimes you just want to hold a book in hand while you sip a beverage of you choice.

Not for everyone, but if you keep a sketchbook, or want to, check this one out and see if you don't get inspired to pull out your art supplies too. Rating: 4 stars.

174. The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking
Book Blurb: This gorgeous, fully illustrated handbook tells the story of sketchnotes--why and how you can use them to capture your thinking visually, remember key information more clearly, and share what you've captured with others.

There are things I liked about this book, and things I did not. I am a really good note taker (not bragging, this is just a fact), and I refer to my notes often. I am however not a visual note taker. I do not have sketches or diagrams in my notes. Arrows, and some key notations yes, but my pages do not look like a sketched flow chart.

This book highlights some of the various way to incorporate flows and sketches into your note taking, and if that works for you, or is something you'd like to try, this might be the perfect book for you. I found it too short and way too repetitive, though I did agree with the general premise, and liked the various example styles shown. Rating: 2 stars.

No comments: