Here's where I post my thoughts on the last dozen books I've either read or attempted to read.
updated: 19 September 2017
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours Helen Oyeyemi
A linked story collection shot through with a theme of keys, this one sounded promising. I read the first story in its entirety and enjoyed it. But I kept thinking I was missing something. Then into the second story I persevered for at least a dozen pages before skimming to the end because I had no idea what was going on. Tried the third story but quickly lost patience. Nope.
started 19 September 2017, abandoned 21 September 2017
The Witch's Boy Kelly Barnhill
Several weeks ago I was browsing the stacks of Jabberwocky and came across this YA book. Personally, I don't think the cover is doing it any favors, but I was on the lookout for something I thought my daughter might like and this caught my eye nonetheless. A quick look at how the story started promised something with an old-timey fairytale sensibility something I like. So I acquired it and it sat on my shelves for a spell....
And then I started reading it and got sucked in fairly quickly. The back cover blurb promised a journey undertaken by two youthful kids, a boy and a girl, but that doesn't happen at the get-go. This story takes its time bringing the two together at a good pace. The writing has that deceptively effortless feel to it and I ended up enjoying this much more than I might've guessed. Just goes to show you that the YA label shouldn't necessarily scare off the adult reader. I think my daughter will like it too and when she comes to me asking for something to read and she will I'll have something readily at hand.
started 6 September 2017, finished 19 September 2017 Amazon
A Darker Shade of Magic V. E. Schwab
I confess that this books cool cover was the first thing that drew me in. Then seeing that it was highly rated among thousands of Amazon users... And then finding out that the sequel was also highly rated... And of course the cool premise. Namely that there are four Londons that our protagonist, Kell, can navigate between. These Londons are all capitals of different countries with different monarchs. Grey London has very little magic and is ruled by George III. Red London (which Kell calls home) is the seat of the Maresh empire and is flush with magic. White London is ruled by the psychotic Dane siblings, Athos and Astrid, and is losing magic fast. And Black London, which no one talks about and has been largely cut off since magic went wild there. Trouble starts when Kell comes into possession of a dangerous magical artefact from Black London. Story moves briskly and I has to read the final hundred pages all at once.
started 23 August 2017, finished 5 September 2017 Amazon
Through the Woods Emily Carroll
Couldn't resist snapping up this debut print collection of five horror stories written and illustrated by Emily Carroll. The stories are creepy and fun and usually have a surprising twist. The illustrations are inventive and the use of color is impressive. I've since learned that the author has developed a following from her website, emcarroll.com, and I'm going to need to revisit that.
started & finished on 5 September 2017 Amazon
Zeitoun Dave Eggers
The true story of a Syrian-American man, Abdulrahman Zeitoun ("zay-toon") and his family and their experiences during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans during August/September 2003. Not really a book I would've chosen on my own to read but my wife gifted it to me and I was intrigued. I read it fairly quickly too. It was a fascinating portrait of a man and a natural disaster and the strange paths his life takes during this time. But if you look further into the turns Zeitoun's life takes after the events in the book, you'll find that things were far from a happy ending for this family.
Don't look at these links if you decide to read the book yourself. Only check them out afterward.
started 13 August 2017, finished 22 August 2017 Amazon
Impulse Steven Gould
The third book featuring people who can teleport, this one centers on Davy & Millie's high school-age daughter, Cent, who suddenly discovers she's inherited the ability from her parents. Jumper and Reflex are the first two books. It's light escapism with teleporting skills (my favorite superpower) so this was a fun vacation-time read. Just found out there's a sequel to this one, too, called Exo. Neat.
started 4 August 2017, finished 10 August 2017 Amazon
Bird Box Josh Malerman
Some months ago I listened to a half a dozen podcasts from the folks at BookRiot and after hearing them suggest this book three times, I added it to my maybe-list. And then I decided, what-the-hell, and snapped it up since it promised to be something weird and different. Well it sucked me right in. It was weird, different, creepy, suspenseful and awesome. People are seeing something outside that makes them either suicidal or homicidal and suicidal. And these things escalate until people are covering their windows and becoming shut-ins subsisting on hordes of canned food. If people dare to venture outside, they blindfold themselves. One young mother decides to venture 20 miles down a river with two four-year-old twins, all of them blindfolded. This story is told in simple language and sticks with you. I kinda loved it.
started 27 July 2017, finished 3 August 2017 Amazon
Stiletto Daniel O'Malley
I began the year with Daniel O'Malley's debut, The Rook, and loved it, so when this sequel came out it was snapped up fast. It was actually high on my son's To Be Read list and he read it first (in 4 days!). The world of the Checquy Files is weird, cool, exciting and funny. In this story, there's a fragile alliance beginning between the Checquy (a British secret service of the supernatural) and the Belgian "Grafters", experts in super-advanced physiological modifications. And then there's a shadowy group, the Antagonists, that want to shatter this new alliance. Such a fun read! One of my favorite new authors.
finished 27 July 2017 Amazon
Assassin's Apprentice (book 1 of The Farseer trilogy) Robin Hobb
This one's over 20 years old, but I finally decided to give this one a go. The story of a young royal bastard who eventually is groomed into becoming an assassin for King Shrewd, his grandfather. Pretty quickly, I discovered that Robin Hobb is an eloquent writer and she takes her time with the story. The characters are interesting which is good because there's not a lot of action per se. In fact, of the assassin's arts, young Fitz, our hero, mainly focuses on poisoning. So this sword-and-sorcery book has almost non-existent "sword." Still, it was captivating enough to read it all the way through. Don't think I'll continue, though.
finished 3 July 2017 Amazon
A Discourse in Steel Paul S. Kemp
This is the second tale of Egil (big dude, carries hammers to crush little dudes) and Nix (sneaky thief who dabbles in magical artifacts). They get caught up in some shenanigans with a local crime guild and wreak havoc. Just the right thing to read when I wanted something light and sword-and-sorcery-ish to wade through.
finished 26 May 2017 Amazon
Annihilation Jeff Vandermeer
Four women, known only by their occupations of psychologist, anthropologist, surveyor, and biologist, comprise the twelfth expedition into the mysterious Area X. Each previous expedition has met with different fates. The first reported an Edenic landscape, the 2nd in mass suicides, the 3rd ended in a hail of gunfire, etc. With the psychologist as the de facto leader, our narrator is the biologist. They're on a mission to map the terrain, record all observations, and eventually report back. But what they find is initially odd, then gets stranger and stranger and more and more menacing. It's a cool, odd, story that kept me turning pages quickly. It's the first of a trilogy known as the Southern Reach. I'll continue.
started 25 april 2017, finished 2 May 2017 Amazon
The Desert of Souls Howard Andrew Jones
While browsing online, I came across this book and whatever site happens to mention it, has good things to say about it. So, in the mood to try a sword-and-sorcery tale based on ancient Persian culture and legends, I gave this one a shot. Here's a bit from the flap copy:
In 8th century Baghdad, a stranger pleads with the vizier to safeguard the bejeweled tablet he carries, but he is murdered before he can explain. Charged with solving the puzzle, the scholar Dabir soon realizes that the tablet may unlock secrets hidden within the lost city of Ubar, the Atlantis of the sands. When the tablet is stolen from his care, Dabir and Captain Asim are sent after it, and into a life and death chase through the ancient Middle East.
The story is narrated by Captain Asim, a likable warrior in the house the vizier, Jaffar. I almost lost interest somewhere in the first third of the story but pressed on regardless and was soon hooked anew. It's a well-written tale infused with the culture of ancient Persia. I enjoyed the writing, the story and the well-drawn characters. You could tell that the author had done a lot of research into this time period and it paid off.
started 8 april 2017, finished 25 april 2017 Amazon
The Hike Drew Magary
Pretty sure I saw this one mentioned in the NYT Book Review and I snapped it up. Then, not even remembering the details of the review and not bothering to read the jacket copy (it's in hardcover), I set to reading this tale. It's a wild, outlandish, modern odyssey of a story with our hero Ben deciding to take a walk since he has some hours to kill before a business meeting. He's checked into some bucolic hotel and walks out the back towards the woods. When he stumbles across what seems to be the aftermath of a murder by people who don't seem quite human, he makes a run for it and becomes epically lost. Things get stranger from there. The story is propulsive, horrific, fun and just a cool excursion. I read the book (it's short) in just under 5 days -- which is quick for me. Good ending too.
Hey. So anyway, after I read the book, I then read the jacket flap and was glad I'd waited. It was a helluva lot more fun going into this story completely in the dark from the get-go. I hate when the copy gives too much away. But that's me.
started 4 april 2017, finished 8 april 2017 Amazon