September Wrap-Up

So, obviously this book blogging thing isn’t working out. I’ll write it all down in the near future, but right now there’s a lot going on in my life, and possibly some big changes on the horizon, so book reviews aren’t on the top of my priority list. However, I still want to talk about books and keep track of my thoughts on the things I read, so starting now I’m going to post wrap-ups at the end of each month of what books I read, along with very brief reviews. In between I’ll probably start writing about life stuff again, since I miss doing that. Anyway, all books link to their Book Depository pages if you want to know more about them. Off we go:

Clay by David Almond: A lot of the reviews I’ve seen for this book compare it to Frankenstein and the responsibility of the creator towards the created. However, I think the most interesting aspects of Clay have to do with  questions of perception (are the things we experience really happening?) and  good and evil (are they inborn traits or learned behaviors?). This is supposedly a children’s book, but I think it would be a bit unsettling for anyone under twelve or so. The whole thing has a deceptively hypnotic, lullaby-gone-awry feel to it, and by the end you’re left feeling like you just had a very strange dream. Lovely.

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove: Inspired by Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, which was inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost, and you can feel these influences all layered over each other like the very maps this story describes. Some of the action got a little confusing towards the end, a lot happens all at once and I found myself rereading a few passages to make sure I knew what was going on, but overall I think this was a great introduction to what will hopefully be a great series. The whole concept of the different ages and ways of keeping time, not to mention the layering of different maps was more than enough to keep me hooked.

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry: This is one of the companion novels to The Giver and, honestly, I was astounded by how little happened in this book.  It’s a nearly 250 page story that could have been told in less than 100. I know this is for younger readers, but The Giver managed to present pretty heavy and complex ideas in a way that was still accessible. Gathering Blue, on the other hand, feels extremely weak in comparison.

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl: This adult novel is in part the true story of the first American translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, part fictional murder mystery. Now, I usually read at least the first 100 pages of a book and, if I’m not enjoying myself by then, I won’t force myself to finish. The Dante Club almost made it to the DNF pile, but luckily took off at around page 95. From there I was totally enthralled. Not only were the factual portions interesting, but as a mystery novel the clues were teased out at just the right pace to keep you engaged and keep you guessing. There’s also a nifty little note in the back that separates fact from fiction and gives a few outside resources for further reading, which I always appreciate in historical fiction.

Oblivion by David Foster Wallace: This is a short story collection by the guy who wrote Infinite Jest. His writing style is quite dense, and might not be for everyone. The stories in this collection center around ideas of reality and consciousness, and a few of them, “The Soul Is Not a Smithy” and “Good Old Neon” in particular, are brilliant. However, others like “Incarnations of Burned Children” and “Mister Squishy” just feel like they’re taking up space. Still an overall decent collection.

Todd, the Ugliest Kid on Earth Volume 1 by M.K. Perker and Ken Kristensen: This one’s a graphic novel. I found it to be severely disappointing. The whole book is covered in blurbs about what a scathing satire it is and how it doesn’t pull any punches, but unless you’ve somehow managed to never see an episode of South Park, there won’t be anything here you haven’t seen before, and seen done much more effectively. You get the feeling this book is quite proud of itself for being controversial, if only it actually succeeded.

Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez: Another graphic novel, and officially my new obsession. I was impressed with how fully realized the world and characters are, and how genuinely creepy and exciting the story is. Almost immediately after finishing this I picked up volume two: Head Games and I’m sure the others won’t be far behind, because I need to know what happens next. This comic is more than a little gory, but so far looks like an interesting horror series.

I think this is going to work out much better in the long run. Trying to post reviews of each book right after I read it was only adding stress to something that should really be a form of stress relief, and that just doesn’t make any sense. Next time will probably be about other stuff. We’ll see. Like I said, I’m trying to figure out how to make blogging fun again.

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