Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book report #2

These past few months my commute has consisted of 11 stops on one train (well, when the MTA isn't trying to ruin my life, that is) and I've been able to get through a good number of books on my reading list. I haven't done a book report since this past summer, so I figure now is a good a time as ever to review what's been getting me through the daily slog.

*The Penelopiad (Margaret Atwood)  - I'm a bit of a Greek mythology nerd, so I loved this version of The Odyssey as told from the point of view of Penelope (his wife) and her twelve maids. Very pro-feminist (but would it be a Margaret Atwood novel if it wasn't?), but also beautifully written and so very thought provoking. If I had read this in high school alongside Homer's original text, I assure you my term papers would have been very different.

*The Magicians (Lev Grossman) - I wanted to like this book. I really wanted to like this book. It's supposed to be some sort of real-life-modern-day Harry Potter (as though Harry Potter isn't technically set in modern day) and I was all set to devour this and the subsequent books in this trilogy. And then I hated it. I couldn't stand the characters, the scenarios weren't plausible, and the magical world in which the book is set had so many holes and inconsistencies I wanted to scream. Oh well, we can't all be winners.

*Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) - could. not. put. this. down. Seriously - I got to a point halfway through the book where I just stared talking about the characters to anyone who would listen, regardless if they'd read the book or seen the movie because I just couldn't stop thinking about it. Did he do it? Is she telling the truth? Should I write a best-selling children's book series too or will that completely screw up my future children??? I haven't seen the movie yet, but it's high on the queue and I might just have to call an emergency book club meeting to decompress.

*Mr. Penumbra's Bookstore (Robin Sloan) - This is a really fun book. It's a fantasy story that might even border on YA literature, but so what? It's the story of analogue meeting digital in a magical world, and it takes you on a great ride with likable characters. Easily digestible, it's perfect for a plane ride or a long commute.

*The Expats (Chris Pavone) - Get lost in a wild trip around Europe while you follow an American spy (or is she?) and her husband (or is he?) as they try to rid themselves of the couple that are spying on them (or are they?). A touch confusing towards an end that borders on farcical, but it's a decent story that won't take you too long to power through and may give you some travel inspiration along the way.

*The Secret History (Donna Tartt) - This is Tartt's second novel, and it's fascinating to see how much she grew as a writer between her first two and her prize-winning The Goldfinch, written nearly a decade later (also - I unintentionally read her cannon backwards, starting with Goldfinch, then reading The Secret History, and ending with The Little Friend (see below) - I don't exactly what this means, but I felt it worth noting because it's an interesting way to approach a new writer or artist). Nonetheless, this is a great novel. There are some dark and (literally) cold moments, so maybe don't read this if you're already cooped up in your own personal northern winter wonderland, but the protagonist is so tortured and unassuming you can't help but stay to the end just to see if he ever pulls himself out of the hole he's fallen into.

*The Little Friend (Donna Tartt) - As mentioned, I read all three of Donna Tartt's novels this year, and clocking in at 1,991 total pages, I now realize that's a lot of Donna Tart in my life. But I tore right through The Goldfinch and thought A Secret History was pretty enticing as well (see above), so I assumed I'd love this, her first novel. While I didn't hate it, I also didn't love it - but mainly because it was fairly disturbing. The incredibly well-developed characters were sad, depressing people, the backwoods Southern town where they live made me uncomfortable, and one of the major plot points revolves around the presence of dozens of snakes, which happen to be one of my more feared animals. Read it if you're a Tartt fan, but maybe skim over the gory parts.

*The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life (Twyla Tharp) - one of my goals for 2015 is to read more non-fiction, so I decided to get a jump start with this book on creativity - and I LOVED it. The famed choreographer breaks her process down into small and discernible steps and makes you believe that you too can create anything. I highlighted and noted and doodled in the margins, and will probably read it again. This book might not be for everyone, but if you've ever thought yourself to be the creative type or if you are stuck in any kind of professional rut, then get thee to this book.


  1. Mary Thank You!!
    Loved your awesome list of reads.
    I haven't read a single one and so I'm very intrigued. Happy holidays!!