Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Something about September

Well here it is, the middle of November. Thanksgiving is more or less here, and Christmas is more or less here the day after that. And then BAM. 2016 calls it quits.

And I'm going to do it—I'm really going to cross the book-challenge finish line! I've only got four books left—and so help me— I'm totally gonna do it! Next year I'll go for 70. (Nope.)

So tonight I take a jaunt down September's memory lane, where I managed to read 4 books—The Woman in White felt like 10, though.


Category: A book set in high school
Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins
Goodreads review: 3 stars

Here's the thing. I didn't get into high school drama even when I was in high school. So I couldn't fully get into this book because in my head I kept saying motherly things like, "Look, Anna, you're 17. You're gonna need to take my word on this: in five years NONE of this will matter." So here's the scoop. (Did I really just say "here's the scoop?) Anna is our main character. She gets dropped off at a fancy high school in Paris because her father, who has recently come into money because he writes awful romance books, thinks it'll be good for her to get some culture. She doesn't want to go, because she likes a boy at home. Anyway, she meets another boy in France—named Etienne St. Clair. He has a girlfriend, but he and Anna really hit it off. Sparks fly. Drama ensues. That's really the best I can come up with. It isn't a horrible book. It has a fun writing style, and the conversations between Anna and St. Clair are enjoyable, except for when they're fighting. Which is every other day. It felt like toward the end the author tries to make her plot a little more meaningful by throwing in introspection and whatnot—but that really flopped for me, because—at the end of the day, none of this will matter in five years.  If high school romance stories are your thing—then you've probably already read this.

Category: A book with a color in the title
The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
Goodreads review: 5 stars

If you find yourself in the throws of a rigorous reading challenge with the ending coming ever closer, the thing to NOT do is take up a 600-pager with the teeniest font known to mankind. I enjoyed The Woman in White, but boy howdy it felt about 200 pages longer than it needed to be. It's not the type of book you can breeze right through (like the above-mentioned book), and should not be undertaken in one week, like I tried to do. Here's what I enjoyed about this book: the story. It's mysterious and creepy. The villains are so entirely—villainous. Count Fosco and his crazy wife? Perfection on the bad-guy scale. It's hard for me to give a simple outline of this plot because it's crazy complex. Like, whoa. The story is told through quite a few perspectives, and begins with Walter Hartright. Hartright is an artist who has been hired to come to an estate and teach two elite women, Laura Fairlie and her step-sister Marian Halcombe, how to draw. As he's traveling late at night (to reach their estate) he encounters a strange woman along the road, dressed all in white, who asks him for help but won't tell him anything about herself. He helps her because he can see that she is agitated and upset about something. And let's go ahead and end the scene there. The story progresses, and Hartright, while working alongside Laura Fairlie, has fallen in love with her. We all saw that coming, didn't we? Marian informs him to move along because Laura's been betrothed, for like, forever. Plus, she's above his station. And we'll end that scene there. Seriously—how am I supposed to write this without turning it into a book report? It's a hearty story. So I just won't write any more of the plot. Let's talk about what I found lacking in this book. Our heroine, Laura. This book is told through the perspective of probably 10 people (that's just a guess) and not once do we hear from Laura. It's basically her story! Modern day stories would dissolve the characters of Laura and Marian and turn them into one capable human being. Laura can't do anything for herself. She can't even tell Hartright that she's already engaged—Marian has to do it for her because Laura might faint. And after things go really bad for her (and they do), Hartright and Marian treat her like I would treat my 6-year-old, because she can't handle life sometimes. Come on, Laura! It's time to adult! Also, the ending was ever-so-convenient. Everything just wraps itself up in a perfect little bow. After investing all this time to create an overwhelming sense of mystery and all-out dread, at least reward us with a firework ending! But, nope. And here's what I found humorous about The Woman in White. Keeping in mind that it emerged from the 1800s, it's full of laugh-out-loud sexist commentary. I lost count of all the "like a man" comments. All the men in the novel respect Marian because she's smart and can make decisions for herself like a man. Hilarious! Still, I totally recommend it. My favorite part of the book was told through Marian's point of view, because she can tell a story like a man.

Category: A book that came out the year you were born
Cold Sassy Tree, Olive Ann Burns
Goodreads review: 5 stars

I've read this book before, but it was well worth a second time through. THIS is the book that gave me my start to boy howdy! Full of small-town southern charm and gossip, the book follows a family in Cold Sassy, Georgia (a made up town) during the start of the 20th century. After Will Tweedy's grandmother passes away, his grandfather, Rucker Blakeslee, shocks his family and the entire town by remarrying only three weeks after her death. He remarries Love Simpson, a much younger woman from the north (gasp). I like this book because it's funny at times (like when Camp paints over a cockroach because he's too lazy to move it), but it's also sad at times (there's a few funerals), and it's got lots of simple wisdom from his grandfather (who's a very likable character despite all the scandals). Some have found fault with the book because it's written in southern vernacular, but I think that just adds to the delight of it all. It can make it a little hard to understand what they're saying, I s'pose. I recommend this book.

Category: A nonfiction book
The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown
Goodreads review: 5 stars

This one gets a round of applause for thoroughness. It talks its head off about rowing—which I knew absolutely nothing about before. And if we're being honest, still don't really know anything about—because I have the brain retention of a vegetable strainer. Trying to remember back on it now, I think there were times that I felt that the pacing was a bit slow, but it's all good because it's a great read. I've mentioned before I that I struggle with nonfiction unless it reads like a story—and this book does just that. It's all about the University of Washington rowing team that went to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. But it starts waaaaaay at the beginning, back to the freshman tryouts, and I'm pretty sure this book discusses each and every competition that was held UP to the Olympic games—in great detail. It talks about weather conditions. It talks about the types of wood that was used to create the boats. It talks about what they were allowed to eat. The author mostly focuses on one of the rowers, Joe Rantz—I'm thinking he must have had the most access to his story—but it weaves in bits about the other rowers as well. We learn all about Joe, from his troubled childhood to how he barely made it onto the Olympic team. Reading about the ending race will give you the chills. It's fantastic. It might even evoke happy tears. I recommend-ommend it.

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