So, I haven’t been very active on this blog, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t manage to read a couple of books this year. I remember creating a Goodreads challenge on the beginning of the year where I sat the bar at 30 books to read this year – and I very soon thought that this was FAR too optimistic of me. And then I thought, when has reading ever been about numbers, I’m happy if I read TWO books that are great reading experiences!
But! Somehow this summer I got a lot of time to read, and read a wonderful amount of books in a short amount of time.
So here it goes, my year in books:
I started out with reading Anton DiSclafani’s The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, which I actually managed to write about, so I won’t sum it up here, I’m just going to say I liked it very much.
The next book I read was The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson which I also managed to write about. (Yay!)
I remember Anne Carson’s The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos as a beautiful collection of texts, about how the “I” of the book manages, despairs, and handles (and ultimately leaves) her life with “the husband”. He’s beautiful, she loves him, they talk all night, but he also disappears sometimes, he uses her texts, leaves her, comes back, everyday life is extremely difficult, and then they find their way back to each other only to let the vicious circle begin again. I don’t have the reading experience freshly in my memory anymore, I just know that I appreciated many of the “essays”, where most of them often had a poem-like quality to them (I would say that the whole book is one long poem, really), and had those moments that is what most often grips me in poems – glimpses of a state of mind where no boundaries exist, a sort of extatic feeling. (If I had the book here I could find a quote for you, but that’ll have to wait to another time).
After ardent recommendations from my sister I finally got around to read Veronica Roth’s Divergent. I was very quickly sucked into the world, and in the beginning the atmosphere reminded me of Lois Lowry’s dystopian novel The Giver, and I think the system of the society – putting people into different fractions according to what they believe makes up a good society (selflessness, logical reason, kindness, physical risk-taking) – is an interesting take on possible societies, values and ideals, and opens up for social criticism and parallells to the society we live in today. It also shows how different values lead to very different takes on life, despite the intention being the same – and also how easily the balance is tipped when one fraction feels that their way is the ‘right way’. Without wanting to spoil too much but what gripped me was also the idea of people not fitting into this system, not being able to only choose ONE way also opens for lot of interesting analysis. This was an enjoyable read, where, as you can see, the philosophical aspects were the ones that gripped me the most, especially in the way the main character Tris’ journey in figuring out herself and the world she lives in is portrayed.
I’ve read recommendations about Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series for a while now and finally decided to start reading the series this spring. So far I’ve only read The Thief, which I liked (a lot of things! The characters, the sort of quiet intensity in the story, the Greek and Roman inspired world), but in the end I was a bit underwhelmed, I’m not sure why. I heard that the second book, The Queen of Attolia is really great, and I definately intend to continue reading the series, it just didn’t happen right away after the first book.
Here comes one my favourite books of this year. I think I first heard of it when Things Mean a Lot wrote about the first two books in the cycle and I immediately added them to my TBR-list. And this spring I read The Raven Boys and oh my god. I instantly fell in love with the main character Blue Sargent’s home and family. The psychic aunt’s! The cosy kitchen! Tarot cards! The psychic aunts!!
And I just loved LOVED how it touched on class and privilege from both points of views. And how the group of privileged boys going to an elite college is so easily stereotyped, and how they are made so wonderfully human here. And how they are privileged (especially one of them, but not all), and still gaining insight into this as the story progresses. I love how Blue befriends them, and all the complications and expectations that their different relationships entail. It’s just perfect. Read it.
So naturally, after The Raven Boys I just wanted to read the second book, but had to wait quite a while because of university studies and other things getting in the way. I started reading it, but couldn’t finish it until summer break came. This is the book where we get to explore Ronan (one of the “raven boys”) more as a character, and oh, the feels!! (and oh how I love unlikely love stories). I won’t say much more because I don’t want to spoil anything but this second book was wonderful too. (I had only one minor hang-up, and it’s this thing with posing the sexually confident girl as a threat and object of jealousy, this happens only briefly but still rubbed me the wrong way). One thing that spoiled the reading experience a bit for me was the fact that I started reading it during a stressful time when I had to put it aside and then only was able to finish it a month or so later. So The Dream Thieves was a wonderful book too, and a book that’ll definately benefit from a reread on my part! (oh, and I can’t wait to read Blue, Lily, Lily, Blue ~)
Susan Choi’s My Education is a book that I’ve had my eyes on for a while. Regina Gottlieb is a college student who becomes an assistant to the notorious professor Nicholas Brody (he’s said to have a history of sexual harassments behind him). They start to have meetings at his house and she ultimately meets his wife Martha and the both of them eventually get into an intense love affair with each other.
I found this book interesting in the beginning, the voice, the interactions, and of course the unexpected (from a normative viewpoint) turn of events. And I don’t know if this is part of the book’s intention but what kept rubbing me the wrong way throughout the book were these accusations of sexual harassments that none of the main characters took very seriously (Martha even dismisses them as ‘ridiculous’). This comes back later when Regina is meeting an acqaintance later in life who had to leave his job due to accusations that he is creating an unsafe job environment for women which he dismisses (without Regina saying a word) in a lengthy monologue. I didn’t feel that the author made it very clear whether you were supposed to feel a sort of irony here or not, but this is something that to me kind of lingered there in the novel and is not really commented on other than the characters’ reactions (who dismiss the accusations without giving them further thought). It’s possible that there is a silent criticism that I didn’t pick up on, but now it only made me uncomfortable, because during my reading it only came across to me as a novel where sexual harassments are present in discussion but without being taken very seriously by the characters the story focuses on. Other than that I found Regina’s journey as a character interesting and the devastating force of her infatuation with Martha was touchingly explored, but it ultimately was a book that left me feeling slighlty underwhelmed and somehow giving me less than I hoped for.
When my summer break began I decided that I would finally read Frances Hardinge. So I started out with Cuckoo Song, and oh. Such a wonderful book. A creepy tale set in the 1920’s, some dark fantasy, exploring the complexity of sibling-relationships, parent-child-relationships, the pain of standing outside the norms… oh, I loved it. And the atmosphere of this novel is f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c.
I think I’ll have to make this posts into two parts, since there still is sixteen books to go. So end of the first part, the second part will come soon!