Sunday, 2 November 2014

Read, Reading, Want to Read {3}

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker | 5/5
Honestly, I loved this book. I loved it! I never read things like this, which is silly, because stories about women in magical/medieval-y settings, caught up in a huge plot, doing magicky things, with a classic 'they don't like each other at first, but then they like each other more and more' plot? My favourite. Also please do notice how I said woman, and not girl - this book is fantastically not YA, but rather about a grad student, which made me able to get really into it and not feel like I'm getting frustrated by the actions of a confused teenager. I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel to this. 
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters | 5/5
I love Sarah Waters novels; I think this is the third book by her that I've read, and so far I've loved all of them. It has the usual concept you'd expect from a Sarah Waters novel; that is an intricately researched and crafted tale about two women set in the past, written with such detail that it feels like you're really there - but this one has an additional twist. I don't want to give away too much, but I was at first confused at the speed with which their relationship was developing before I understood what the rest of the book would be about. Quite a sharp left, and I mean that in the best possible way.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton | 2.5/5
I wanted to like this book. It was well-written and interesting, and the detail put into the writing made it feel incredibly real. I empathised with the plight of the main character, a young woman married off to a rich merchant who immediately finds none of the glamour or even welcome that her and her family had been expecting. But really, it was so so frustrating. None of the characters act in ways that would easily solve or prevent their problems, and as such this book is a series of terrible, terrible things happening to a small group of people. Even worse, the central mystery of the novel - concerning the titular Miniaturist - is never resolved, which I found so frustrating. This author clearly has talent and if she writes another book I probably will read it, but I found this debut to be a let-down. 
The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan | 2.5/5
I read this book very quickly - I remember really enjoying reading it, but I feel much less charitable about it now, with some distance from it. It's about vampires, but neither the classic 'spooky count' vampire nor the new 'sexy misunderstood' ones; this take on vampires is much more zombie-like than anything I've seen before. A vampire virus spreads across New York while a CDC official and his Beautiful And Understanding Latina Sidekick follows him around and does whatever he asks, including taking on a motherly role towards his son towards the end, 'cause women, duh. The characters aren't great and the personal subplot of the main guy trying to win his son in a custody battle is lazy; I'm very sick of the plot 'wife unfairly and easily gets total custody of child in a divorce', both because it's old, and because it helps to promote the common and damaging misapprehension that women are given unfair advantage in family court. That being said, the description of the vampires and how the virus spreads is quite interesting and not like anything I've ever seen, and the gore was good. I also didn't realise it was the first in the trilogy, but probably won't be picking up the second two. (Also, the currently airing show based on this is horrible, don't bother.)
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey | 5/5
Following nicely on from a new take on vampires, The Girl with All the Gifts is a really interesting and fresh take on the zombie genre. I don't want to give too much informatino as almost anything would give away some of the 'twists' and 'reveals', but I really enjoyed the plot and the main character, a very intelligent young girl named Melanie. I couldn't put this down and ended up reading the entire thing in one day. I highly recommend it!
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer | 3.5/5
This book tells the well-known story of Chris McCandless, a young man from an upper-middle-class background who decided he was done with a normal American life and set off on a years-long hitchhiking journey, ending with him making his way up to Alaska and dying several months later. It goes into the entire scope of his long journey, talks to people Chris met along the way, and tries to get to the bottom of his reasoning for a trip like this - for this, the author draws on his own experience in mountaineering, and his own Alaskan failure that resonated deeply with him. It's quite well-written and it does tell an interesting story, but I think the author suffers from being too close to Chris's own situation, and therefore it feels very biased: so much sympathy and admiration is given to Chris, and he's painted in such a positive light, rather than being a very privileged young man with access to books about the wilderness and a pretty selfish approach to living.

Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy #1) by Jeff VanderMeer
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer. 
This is the twelfth expedition.
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
An epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, Blood Meridian brilliantly subverts the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the "wild west." Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into the nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.

Authority (Southern Reach Trilogy #2) by Jeff VanderMeer
Acceptance (Southern Reach Trilogy #3) by Jeff VanderMeer
This might be silly but I'm not putting any summaries here - I'm afraid they'll spoil the ending of Annihilation for me!
Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti
This collection features tormented individuals who play out their doom in various odd little towns, as well as in dark sectors frequented by sinister and often blackly comical eccentrics.
Phew, quite a long entry this time! I've been doing a lot of reading since the last update, as you can see! Have you read any of these? What did you think?

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