Mini Reviews!

Friends, it is April. April is always busy. Couple that with starting a job in June, interviewing for internships, moving in May (and then preparing to move AGAIN in August), I am behind on the book reviews. That is because I am still reading (to escape my too-busy life), but not finding time to get my thoughts in a coherent blog post. I try and it sounds like I don’t know what a sentence is or how an intelligent person puts them together. The answer? Mini reviews! My blogging self might dislike me for this later, but my reading self will be much happier after I post this.

Solo by Rana Dasgupta

This book really deserves its own post, but I have let it sit and linger for too long. I have a hard time writing long posts a few weeks after reading a book. I like to write my reviews as soon as I finish reading the book. Then I like to let that review sit a week or so to make sure I still feel the same way. THEN I post the review. Unfortunately with Solo, I just don’t know that I’m going to really be able to do the book the justice it deserves so long after I read it the first time.

Let me put it this way, I loved Solo so much, that I immediately ordered Dasgupta’s only other novel Tokyo Cancelled. Solo is the story of Ulrich, a Bulgarian man at the end of his life. When he was younger, he was full of ambition, but life got in the way and he eventually ended up caring for his aging mother until her death and never becoming the musician or chemist that he dreamed of. The first half of the novel is the story of his life that some people would consider a failure. It is also the story of Bulgaria, from the years before WWII to the years of communism. It is a sad story, but one that is wonderful to read about. Dasgupta is a gifted storyteller and writes beautiful prose that I just couldn’t resist.

What elevates Solo as truly unique is the second half of the book when we leave Ulrich’s real world and enter the world he imagines. There are new characters, though if you read carefully you can see the links between the two worlds. I don’t want to give anything away, but please read this book!

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve read everything else

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

I really didn’t expect to love The Awakening as much as I did. I have a sort of informal book club with a friend of mine and he wanted to read a classic, so this is the one I suggested. I expected to really be disgusted with Edna and her plight, but actually I was so surprised how much I supported her. Beyond the plot, Chopin is a wonderful writer. There were so many passages that I marked just because they were beautiful.

My friend didn’t love it as much, but I think I convinced him of its merits in the end. Turn of the century US literature always surprises me with how much I love it and how relevant it can feel. I want to explore this era and read more books published then. Any suggestions?

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve read everything else

The  Autobiography of an Execution by David Dow

This is the book that changed my mind. I used to be on the fence about the death penalty, leaning towards being opposed to it, but still not sure. Thanks to David Dow, I am absolutely, 100% opposed to it. I heard David Dow on NPR and I never wanted him to stop talking about his experiences as a death row lawyer. The same was true for his memoir, The Autobiography of an Execution. I can see why some people would not like this book. Dow is not always the most likable guy and he doesn’t really claim to be an amazing writer. But he writes exactly as he speaks and I like the way he speaks, so I could look over a lot of that. Also, it’s a memoir, not a non-fiction book about the execution process. Dow has already written a lot of those and you can read them, this is his personal experiences and emotions as a death row lawyer.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve read everything else

Black Juice by Margo Lanagan

This is another one that I would easily be able to write an entire post about. I loved it. The first story was absolutely amazing and then every story after that (with the exception of only one or two) were equally amazing. I don’t know that I have ever read a short story collection this beautiful and strange. I read and liked Tender Morsels, but I did not love it as many people do. This I loved unambiguously. It is amazing and I want everyone to be reading it. I also learned something that I already knew but had forgotten: fantasy short stories are so good. I almost like it better than full length fantasy.

To top it all off, I had a complete fan girl moment. I tweeted something along the lines of how weird and wonderful it must be to live in Margo Lanagan’s mind. And then this happened:

What. That is amazing. Thank you, Twitter, for making things like this happen.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve read everything else

9 thoughts on “Mini Reviews!

  1. I’m always on tenderhooks when I see people reading The Awakening. I know they’ll either love it or wonder what the big deal is, so I’m always so happy when they fall on the LOVE side of things!!

  2. Goody, glad to have the positive review of Black Juice. I wanted to read Tender Morsels but it looked so grim I wasn’t sure I could face it. This will be good, I can read Margo Lanagan without the rape stuff (I hope?). And if I hate one story I can just skip it and continue on to the next.

  3. I felt the same way about The Awakening: many, many beautiful passages but the characters themselves were just meh. The much-discussed ending just felt like Chopin didn’t know what to do with her protagonist now that she’d been liberated.

  4. Like Amanda, i always wait with trepidation to see what a particular reader thinks of The Awakening. I first read it as an undergrad, and it knocked my socks off. I actually think the ending is quite appropriate for several reasons, but I won’t ramble.

    I really enjoy the mini-review format as it introduced me to almost all new-to-me books. I will certainly be adding some titles to my list.

  5. I’m so glad you loved The Awakening. I read it in high school and it made a huge impression on me. The Autobiography of an Execution sounds interesting. I’ve leaned towards no death penalty so it’d be interesting to hear more about it.

    Also, I’ve been meaning to email you for a week. So I’m going to go do that right now.

  6. I had to read The Awakening twice before I really began to appreciate it. And for someone who doesn’t like to re-read books, it is a warning that I might need to give some books a second chance.
    The tweets are wonderful – I love these little connections.

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