Friday, August 1, 2014

Books of 2014 - July

I managed to finish 11 books in July, even with four days of church camp where I read probably 4 pages. At night when I was trying to wind down, after getting 45+ junior girls to quiet down, my Kindle Fire came in really handy. I'd read a page, and then I'd fall asleep.

For a list of the books I finished before and after camp, read on:

1. The Imposter Bride. Fiction by Nancy Richler. My Goodreads review:
The POV jumps around, nearly every character is somehow held at arm's length, and nothing really happens or is learned. Fairly significant questions remain unanswered. And yet, it's a better book than that makes it sound. The characters are interesting, the time and place evocative. What the main point was for me: the effects of war cannot be measured in official casualty lists. Despite what I perceive as flaws in the writing, this is a haunting story that has stayed with me after I finished it.

2. The Nine Tailors. Fiction by Dorothy Sayers. The last of the original Peter Wimsey books by Sayers that I haven't read (not the last in the series, just the last one I needed to read since I've read them all out of order). I had no idea what change ringing was when I started this book. I'm still not sure what it is exactly, but I know a LOT more about it now.

Peter and Bunter are in fine form in this book, which is just as well since other characters (Harriet Vane, Miss Climpson, Parker) either don't appear at all or have a mere cameo.

Well constructed plot, memorable characters, and Sayers own flair for the arcane.

3. The Late Scholar. Fiction by Jill Paton Walsh. I love Jill Paton Walsh (the Imogen Quy series is fantastic) and I love Peter Wimsey. I WANT to love Walsh's continuation of the Sayers series, but somehow...I just don't.

Sayers left behind several ideas of what would happen to Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. Some of these ideas Walsh has incorporated, several she hasn't. And I have never seen anything to suggest Sayers wanted Wimsey to be the...well, I won't spoil it. But it's been the state of affairs for several books now and I just don't like it. I've read all the Sayers books and the Walsh sequels, and it's just not the same (although The Attenbury Emeraldscame closest.)

Very clever use of previous Lord Peter books in this one, suggesting that Harriet has used his former adventures as inspiration for her books. There are deft touches for anyone who has enjoyed the entire series.

Unfortunately, this feels like an Imogen Quy story that Peter Wimsey has stumbled on. It's a merger of two series that just didn't work for me, being neither Quy nor Wimsey.

Maybe I'm just a Sayers stickler. I think Walsh's writing skill is superb and I have no complaints against her mental abilities. It's just not Sayer's Wimsey.

4. Fear: A Novel of WW1. Fiction by Gabriel Chevallier. Translated from its original French. This isn't really a book to "like". It's brutal and dark and heartbreaking. In other words, it's everything a book about war probably ought to be.

5. American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell. Nonfiction by Deborah Solomon. I rarely give one star reviews, but I made an exception in this case. This book provides no new information or insight. Solomon seems equal parts annoyed and befuddled by her subject. Rockwell, despite the author's years of research and 400+ pages of writing, remains aloof and he keeps his own secrets. The author is forced to rely on increasingly speculative "insights" from selected works and habits of Rockwell to prove...what, exactly? The homo-eroticsm she finds says more about her than him and her constant habit of seeing things in their worst possible light do Rockwell no justice. She has chosen a few pieces of art out of his massive portfolio, to interpret as she wishes.

Rockwell's reputation as an artist improves with the passage of time. This author's work will not, at least in this instance.

6. The Yard (Scotland Yard Murder Squad #1). Fiction by Alex Grecian. I must have been feeling touchy about books this month, because here's another one star review: Derivative. Anachronistic. Utterly lacking in coherence, suspense, or consistent POV.

I think the author can improve, given a good editor and refining but I'm in no hurry to read his next effort.

I think I picked this up because it was free for Kindle or from my library suggested reads or something. I don't recommend spending any money on it.

7. The Canal Bridge. Fiction by Tom Phelan. Wanted to be more than it was. Each section being a different POV is interesting but also a hindrance since the characters always seem to be at arm's length. If you pick up a book set in Ireland, you can bet it will be tragic, and this one is no exception. This one almost tries too hard to make you cry. You can see the tragedies coming long before he actually sets them into chapters.

8. 1914: A Novel. Fiction by Jean Echenoz. Translated from French. War is awful and some stuff happens but then the survivors go on with their lives = that's how you can sum up this slim novel. Brutal, when you realize that this war actually happened, destroying millions, but the book is less effective because you don't actually care about the characters.

9. Legend in Green Velvet. Fiction by Elizabeth Peters. Perfect escape reading. Light hearted but filled with mystery (both historic and contemporary), characters that mock their "stock figure" status, and a romance that never descends into sappiness.

The only drawback in this one? Our hero bears a resemblance to...well, I won't spoil it. But suffice it to say, that if this figure was ever a heartthrob, it was WELL before my time. I wish authors would take note of this trouble. If you compare your hero to a current pin-up or movie star, your future readers (should you be blessed to have them) will be asking, "But WHY is looking like that a good thing? He SO OLD!"

10. The Good News About Marriage. Nonfiction by Shaunti Feldhahn. Read for review, which you can read here.

11. The Taste of Apple Seeds. Fiction by Katharina Hagena. Some passages in this novel are lyrical and lovely. Others are pretentious and dull. There is magic and mystery but never a cohesive plot or characters that grab the reader's imagination. Much of it just makes no sense, although if the book is about memory and forgetting, that may have been the author's intent. Ultimate verdict: good but could have been better. Translated from German.

Totals for July:
Fiction: 9 (including 3 translated from other languages)
Nonfiction: 2

What did you read in July? Anything I should add to my August stack?
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Jessie Weaver said...

Our tastes are very different, but I enjoy seeing what you read! I think my best July read was The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, followed by Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

Karen said...

I've heard a little bit about those but I haven't read anything by either author. More to add to my "must read one day list".

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