June 6, 2016

Recent Reads

66. Lulu Anew
This graphic novel is about a middle aged woman who decides one day to walk away from her life, leaving behind a husband and three children. I liked that the story was told from various points of view, and the slow reveal as to what happens next. I also liked that the events that occured were realistically plausible without any grand heroics. Also, the art is quite lovely. The reason this does not get a higher rating is that I did not connect to the story in the way I expected to. Maybe because it did not cover any new ground, or because there is not much character depth revealed, or that it was a little to lifetimey for my tastes. Rating: 2 stars.

67. The Fade Out, Vol. 1: Act One
Based on the reviews of certain GR friends, I picked up this graphic novel trilogy expecting to love it. I'm looking at you Jan and David S. But something about this one did not work for me.

The premise is interesting enough - a murder mystery set in 1948 Hollywood with all that entails: movie stars, people attracted to movie stars, and the usual cast of unsavory characters. The story starts off with a bang when writer Charlie wakes up after a drinking binge in a bathtub, only to find the lead actress of the movie he is working on dead near him. Whodunit?

I quite liked the historical setting of Hollywood in a bygone era, and the art is interesting, and captures well the atmosphere of that era, but I did not find any of the characters interesting, and was not pulled into the mystery. Did I care enough to read on? Well, since I had the other two books on my nightstand I did. Rating: 2 stars.

68. Middlemarch
With a nod to Mr. Brooke, this book is marvelous, bloody marvelous, you know?

This book has been on my TBR for years, and I'm not sure why it took me this long to get to it. One of my reading goals in 2016 was to finally get around to reading it, and what a better time to read this one than in March?

I started the audiobook at the start of the month, and finished it with a couple of days to spare. I loved every single moment I spent in the world that George Eliot created. Her skill at crafting this novel is awesome (in the old school sense of the word), and she has moved up to the top five authors I'd like to have to dinner. Eliot's understanding of human nature is remarkable, and I loved her empathy for all the characters in this epic novel, scoundrels included. She opens up vistas on our humanity for us to observe, and in doing so expands our capacity to have sympathy and empathy for those we might otherwise judge harshly. There are characters I loved, and ones I wanted dead, some I felt like hitting on the head with a saucepan, and others that seemed to need a good long cuddle. Eliot's wit and wisdom shines through, and she had me smiling in acknowledgement of one or the other on every single page, all the way to the very last paragraph. How often can one say that about a book this long?

Virginia Woolf once famously remarked that this is 'one of the few English novels written for grown-up people'. I concur.

A quick note on the audiobook. It is narrated by the wonderful Juliet Stevenson. If I ever won the lottery, I would spend a significant portion of it paying Ms. Stevenson to narrate all the books I'm interested in reading. She is that dang good, and deserves an award for her work on this one. Rating: 5 stars.

69. The Fade Out, Vol. 2: Act Two
I'm happy to report that Act Two does improve on Act One, but I'm still not hooked on caring about solving the mystery. Good thing too, as no-one else seems to care about solving it either in this installment. I liked getting more of the backstory of some of the characters, and the art continues to be good - the colors especially are great. I've got the last volume of this graphic novel trilogy in hand so will read it just to complete the series, not because I care about the killer or their motives. Rating: 3 stars.

70. The Fade Out, Vol. 3: Act Three
I'm not a big fan of crime/mystery stories, so the fact that this graphic novel trilogy did not resonate could be all due to my personal tastes. Act Three concludes this story, and the murderer is revealed. Did I care? Nope. The art is good, I liked the gritty historical context of the story, and there are certain plot lines of debauchery and race I found interesting. I'm not opposed to stories with sexy women, booze, and secrets, but this one felt rather stereotypical, with no additional insight to be gleaned from its pages. Not for me. Rating: 2 stars.

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