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books and reading

The Bluest Eye

I’ve never read Toni Morrison. With all the profound, important books I’ve read, all the authors we will be reading for decades to come, she is one I haven’t gotten around to, until this week. And let me make this clear- I get it.

I get why she is required reading. I get why she is considered a master of her craft. I get why she has won a Pulitzer. This book simply took my breath away. So many memorable phrases and sentences of just a few words, but their meaning and context is profound.

The story is so difficult to read, especially since it involves children and their fears, terrors, horrors. However, even though the events in the book take place in the past, their importance cannot be forgotten easily. We should value children, protect them, love them, no matter what.

I am absolutely going to read more from this formidable author. There should be another word for people who are heads and shoulders above their peers. Author doesn’t seem like a strong enough word for what Morrison is. It’s downright insulting to put her in the same category with Nicholas Sparks or James Patterson. Morrison’s words and legacy are limitless.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

I am pretty sure I’ve reread everything from high school, aside from random Christopher Pike books, but I have no desire to ever read those again. But all the meaningful books I read back in the day, I have reread as an adult, considering I taught high school for a number of years. And I thought of revisiting one that I taught but haven’t read in awhile, but nothing jumped out at me. So, instead of going the high school route, for this challenge, I chose to reread a book that I read in college. In my American Lit II class, we read Their Eyes Were Watching God. The only thing I remembered from this book (which I’m almost positive I did actually read it) was that it was African-American lit and there was a character named Tea Cake in it.

And while I was reading, I was consciously aware that this was a brand new book to me. I remembered absolutely nothing. So, maybe I didn’t read it in college, but that doesn’t sound like me. I slogged my way through everything. In any case, I’m glad I went back to this one. I really enjoyed it, given the plot is pretty sparse. However, the characters are quite rich and the writing was wonderful. Much of it is written in dialect, so I did have to slow down a bit, but once I got the hang of it, for example “Ah” instead of I, I was able to move quicker through it. The main character, Janie, just wants love, the universal desire. She wants to be in love, the sweet nectar honeybee kind of love. Her grandmother wants her to marry for security, so Janie does. It doesn’t work out, though. She moves on to another man, one who promises to love her and treat her well. Eh, not so much there either. Finally, the last one, Tea Cake, does a fair better job. They are like cats and dogs at each others’ throats at times, but he understands her best, but not fully. Such is the way of life, I suppose. Can anyone FULLY understand us?

Even though this book is nearly 80 years old (right? 1937…. my math is terrible), I was able to relate to it. Don’t we all want to be loved, treated right, and understood at our cores?

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books and reading

Caught in Amber

I selected this book for my “Romance set in the future” book knowing full well that I really don’t enjoy romance books or ones set in the future (aside from dystopia). However, this book was a pleasant surprise in that it wasn’t overly romantic or futuristic. So, I’m not sure if that bodes well for those looking to read those genres specifically, but for me, I enjoyed this book for what it was.

Books like this aren’t ones to be analyzed to death. They are simply for enjoyment and don’t require much thought. This is definitely not a bad thing at all. I’ve been reading some pretty heavy books, as of late, so this was a nice break from those. It’s pretty short (200ish pages, IDK, I read it on my kindle in 2 days), and has a fairly simple plot, which is established in the first chapter. It is set in the future because, instead of meth, the addicts use Amber, and there’s some references to being chipped and tracked if you are a convict, but no one was riding around in spaceships or anything.

As of this moment, this book is 1. 49 on the Kindle. If you enjoyed these genres, check it out. Nothing spectacular, but a solid book with believable characters and situations.

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Little Women

When I was born, my grandmother bought me the Little Women set of Madame Alexander dolls. They were in my room, high on a shelf, never to be played with. However, my mom would tell me stories about them and all the adventures they would go on. Time and time again, she tried to get me to read Little Women, but I just couldn’t get into it. And even as an adult, it just wasn’t interesting to me. However, for my “book that’s at least 100 years older than you,” I was bound and determined to read Little Women, finally.

So, now that I’m on the other side, I can honestly say it was just an okay book. I wasn’t pleasantly surprised with how much better it was than I was expecting it to be (like Kurt Vonnegut books have been) but it wasn’t a painful reading experience either.

I try not to spoil books, but really, this one is SO old that if you don’t know what happens by now (or haven’t seen the Friends episode where Rachel makes Joey read it) then read at your own discretion. So, Beth survives her scarlet fever, and knowing she dies, I was so surprised it didn’t happen then. I kept wondering if I had accidentally downloaded the “happy” version of the book, rather than the actual one. But, alas, Beth still met her fate. And I loved Laurie and Jo’s relationship, or lack there of. Jo has a good, reasonable head on her shoulders, and made the right decision. Not every male/female relationship needs to be one of true love. Some of the best friendships can be ones of siblings or sibling-like.

I gave this one a solid 3 stars. It was worth reading, but nothing I will read again. I’m glad to have it on my “read” list so I can move on. I’m not sure any accomplished American can say they’ve read all the classics without having this one on their list. So, job done!

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Madonnas of Leningrad

I really don’t have a lot to say about this book. It was a nice to have a bit of a breather from the long books I’ve been reading, but this one was still heavy in content. But it isn’t one that will stick with me for any reason. In fact, after finishing this last night, I’m not quite sure what the main character’s name is. Eek

Marina’s (I looked it up, no worries) story is told in present day when she is older and her memory is failing, alternated with chapters from her past. She was in Russia during WWII and barely managed to survive in the basement of an art museum. She helped preserve the artwork for safe keeping and, with so much time to spare, memorized the layout and the paintings in the museum.

At just over 200 pages, this book was a break from the 800+ ones I’ve been reading lately, and it is a darker story, but it never delved into the worst of the horrors of WWII, which is saying something considering many people starved to death in this book. But interspersed with descriptions of artwork, specially the Madonnas, you never really got sucked into the darkness.

I gave this one 3 stars because it was good enough to finish, but it just didn’t make an impression on me, either good or bad.

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books and reading

The Death Code

I am not a writer. However, I do know good writing. And, sorry to say, this isn’t it. Anytime an author says something like “We were surrounded on all sides” I am out. Ugh. What awful redundant writing. Not to mention that “it was the first thing she said since we found her” was stated three times. So, apparently, this character said three different things on three different occasions, all of which were the ‘first thing.’ It’s also not true, because when she was found, she said something.

The story is told is alternating chapters from 2 first person accounts, which I have no problem with, but most chapters were so short and choppy (some only a page long) that it was very disjointed and there was no flow to the story. I assume they are meant to be action packed, different camera angle type stories, but it just didn’t work.

About 2/3 of the way through the book, the plot began to grab my attention. Survival in the “Outside” against forces that cause disease was much more interesting. I think this is where the focus of the book really should have been.

I gave this three stars, but I think that’s being generous. They were unnecessarily graphic Again, I have no problem with violence, but a character laughing and screaming with madness and joy as she gouges someone’s eyes out isn’t plausible. I *would* be plausible with a little more character development, but that was seriously lacking in this book. Also, I didn’t buy the relationship between the main characters at all. None of it felt developed or authentic.

Maybe I’m not the target audience. Maybe I’ve read too much of the genre. Either way, I can’t recommend these books to anyone.

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books and reading

The Murder Complex

I’m a big supporter of my local library. I live near a bigger city, so we have multiple branches to get books. And they are so nice that they will order a new book if you request it. I am also a fan of ebooks and my Amazon wish list. I add books on there constantly and check it daily. I finally discovered the “sort by lowest price” feature so now I can easily find books on my list that have been deeply discounted. So, when a book on my wish list drops to .99 or 1.99, I usually snatch it up. This is how I obtained The Murder Complex. But the second book in the series is full price (usually) and my library didn’t own it, and I’m just too cheap to pay full price for books, so I requested the library order the second book. And they did!! They already owned the first, so it made sense for them to buy the second one. Big thanks to my library support!

I’ve owned The Murder Complex for a year or so, but just never wanted to read it until I had access to the second. I feel like I have exhausted the YA dystopian genre. Most of it is fair. A few series stand above the rest, The Hunger Games, The Legend series, the Book of Ivy series come to mind. There’s also a great series that I got for free from Amazon called The Starborn Uprising series that I thought was really good. But most are just mediocre. Sadly, this one falls into that category. I’m so used to reading a trilogy, that when a series is just two books, it feels a bit lacking. Book of Ivy, aside, because that’s a very fleshed out couple of books. This one, however, felt rushed. I never bought into a character’s motivation. None of them, really. It all felt very disjointed. Oh I hate you, no wait, I want to kiss you even though I barely know you, oh wait you’re going to kill me, wait I still might want to kiss you. Huh?

The book was also really predictable. I knew certain characters were either not dead or involved in a double agent situation. Ultimately, I gave this book 3 stars because I did want to keep reading, but I just wasn’t overly impressed with it. I felt like it was needlessly bloody and murderous (and have zero issues with meaningful violence in a YA books). The overall plot was just too farfetched.

Maybe I just have high expectations for this genre, or maybe I’ve just read so much of it that it takes a lot to impress me. But I am going to read the second book and see if it fares any better.

 

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City of Mirrors

I cannot thank Netgalley enough for this advance copy. I have been waiting 6 years for this book, and it was well worth the wait.

After plowing through The Passage and The Twelve the past month, rereading the first two books was beneficial to reading this book. There is no way I would have remembered all that happened from so many years ago. Without a fresh memory, this book would have lost its punch. And boy does it whack you a good one.

I feel like this series is more like a chess game. There are so many pieces in play. The Passage set up the board, introduced you to the pieces, and let you begin the game. The Twelve was a back and forth strategy of master opponents and by the end, the victor made his first step to checkmate. But not quite. City of Mirrors has the opponent battling back fiercely, not to be defeated easily. But the victor makes the final move and the game is over. Some pieces remain on the board, but others are lost in the process. But it all boils down to Amy. Always Amy.

There are pieces of the narrative from the first two books that are finally resolved, so again, a reread was very helpful. And reading the books back to back to back was much more emotional than I was expecting it to be. By the time this one ended, I teared up a couple times, whether happy or sad tears, I won’t say. Maybe a mixture of both.

I was trying to explain to someone recently that this book is about vampires, but not really at all. It’s about people, survival, hope, perseverance, and most of all, love and faith in humanity.

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The Twelve

As promised, here is the second book in The Passage trilogy review. And, even though I gave this one 5 stars, this one felt a bit weaker than the first. Still amazing and absolutely worth reading, but I were forced to pick a favorite between the two, I would have to go with The Passage.

The Twelve introduces us to a whole new group of characters, who are extremely important to our core group, but no one you necessarily want to get attached to, if you catch my drift. The ending of this one is wonderful and heartbreaking. Our group is torn apart and reunited, simultaneously. Some are lost, new ones join, so it will be interesting to see what happens with these relationships in City of Mirrors. The lives these people lead are so compelling. Even though they are just people, they do amazing things for humanity, at great risk to themselves. This is what I enjoyed most about the book. I’m not a risk taker by nature, but when the weight of the entire world is on one’s shoulders, one might look at danger differently.

Because of Netgalley, I have an advance copy of City of Mirrors and will be starting immediately. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you in a few days.

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The Passage

I rarely reread books. Partly because there are just so many books on my “to read” list that I just don’t have time for rereading. I’m too antsy to get to the new ones. Also, because if I loved a book the first time around, I am really nervous to read it again because it might not be as good the second time. There are books that fit into your life exactly in the perfect time and place. Reading Les Miserables was an experience that I could never recreate. The only time I’ve read it, I was teaching and would share the story with my students. Although, I fully believe Les Mis would hold up to a second reading, something would be missing from my joy: my students. So, I’ve never reread it. But there are books that I miss. I want to visit them again. My memories of them have started to fade. So this year, I vowed to reread some of my favorites.

I originally read The Passage when it came out, years and years ago. And then I read The Twelve (review coming soon) when it was published. And I have never revisited either one. But since City of Mirrors is FINALLY coming out this month, and it had been so damn long since I read the first two, I am gladly refreshing my memory of this series.

I loved The Passage. Not your typical vampire story, but really more of a character study. And unlike any story I’ve read, the vampires are humanized, well, as much as death row inmates can be. And you get inside their brains to really understand what life is like for them. The story also follows several formats. It’s not just a narrative, but also emails, journals, documents, etc, which helps break up the 800+ pages. As lengthy as this book is, the story flies. It’s told in a bit of a random order, jumping ahead 100 years in the middle, which was quite surprising when I originally read it, but all is wrapped up fairly well by the end. The Passage isn’t just another “vampire book.” It is unique and one not to pass up.