I had hoped to write something brilliant and original today, but this March weather thwarted my plans. It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep when violent wind keeps blowing your window open, and it’s hard to think clearly when you didn’t get a good night’s sleep, and it’s hard to write brilliant and originals blog posts when you’re not thinking clearly.
Thus, today’s offering is little more than a summation than the books I read in the month of February, with reviews poached from my own Goodreads page. Here’s hoping for better next week, in the weather and brilliance departments.
February, perhaps, is a month for many to indulge in romantic reading selections. My list, on the other hand, is comprised of one mystery, one dystopian, one fantasy, two classics, and one historical non-fiction. Oh well. I never was much on Valentine’s Day.
The Mystery: Whose Body?, by Dorothy Sayers
Just the right kind of clever, charming, British-ness to suit a cold winter’s evening.
Dorothy Sayers is still just an acquaintance, but we’re going to be friends soon. I can feel it.
“Here am I, sweating my brains out to introduce a really sensational incident into your dull and disreputable little police investigation, and you refuse to show a single spark of enthusiasm.”
The Dystopian: The Light, by Jacqueline Brown
One of my goals for 2018 is to discover/read more indie authors. While dystopian is not usually my preferred genre, Jacqueline Brown’s “The Light” was not a bad place to start.
The premise of all electronics and technology being suddenly and irrevocably removed from the world was appealing to me (I don’t know if this is a common plot point in dystopian literature, but if it is I guess I should quit avoiding it). Brown’s focus is very restrained, centering around one small group of survivors in a rural setting. She didn’t quite capitalize on the senses of isolation and anxiety, but I still really love that she chose this approach.
For such a character centric story, I did wish that the secondary cast had been fleshed out a bit more. It also seemed as if they accept their new world too quickly. The beginning, in general, felt a bit rushed. I’d have preferred more time to get to know the characters… more foundation for the ensuing drama. Not to sound overly negative. I don’t think it’s a terrible insult when the worst thing you have to say about a book is that you wish there’d been more of it.
For a “religious” book (Christian/Catholic), I’d categorize it as imperfect but above-average. It does manage to avoid some of the pitfalls that so often plague this classification. There was some moralizing, I guess, but it wasn’t too off-putting, and the characters didn’t come off as sicky-sweet Bible-thumpers. (Do note: this is the assessment of a lifelong Christian who might herself be considered a sicky-sweet Bible-thumper by those on the opposite end of the spectrum.)
The author does an excellent job of building tension, both internal and external, while keeping it all very subtle. This makes a refreshing reading experience for those who don’t like being bonked over the head with all kinds of teen angst and crazy epic drama. “The Light” is a page-turner, but it kept me interested by investing me in the characters and their lives, not through cheap hooks and empty action.
Bottom Line: This was a 3.5 star read for me. I didn’t love it, but I did enjoy it and plan to investigate the next book in this series.
Classic #1: It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis
“…a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. Written during the Great Depression when America was largely oblivious to Hitler’s aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a President who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, rampant promiscuity, crime, and a liberal press.”
Spoiler alert: it can happen here.
Still disturbingly relevant, over 80 years after it was written. I am not at all certain it follows that the book must be beneficial. I don’t find myself any better off for having read it.
Classic #2: Sense & Sensibility, by Jane Austen
This is perhaps the 2nd of 3rd time in my life I’ve read Sense & Sensibility, while I’ve watched the film version more often than I can account for. It it impossible that the one should not to influence the other. With almost any other book/movie combination, this would be a lamentable truth. In this case, however, it is rather the contrary.
I am convinced that Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and company, bring these characters and story to life in more dynamic a way than my imagination would have been capable of. The admission feels like sacrilege, but there it is.
Elinor Dashwood is the heroine every real-life lovelorn drama queen needs to learn from. And I sincerely love her.
I don’t care what anyone says in his defense, I still want to shoot Willoughby in the face with a rubber band gun.
The Fantasy: Thick As Thieves, by Megan Whalen Turner
(Note: “Fantasy” doesn’t feel like the correct classification for any of Whalen Turner’s books. It isn’t quite broad enough, or specific enough, or amazing enough. And this is the opinion of a reader who adores fantasy.)
It is inexplicably rare, in this day and age, to find a book that is centered around friendship— pure and simple friendship.
This series is incomparable. I don’t understand why everyone isn’t reading it, talking about it, and begging for more on a daily basis.
The non-fiction: Children Of The City: At Work & At Play, by David Nasaw
The author seems to take the stance that the era of children working/playing/living on city streets was a happy, golden time. And that all the parents and children’s rights advocate were a just a bunch of clueless meanies who wanted to prevent youngsters from earning money, having fun, and/or living meaningful lives. Which strikes me a curious point of view, but whatever.
I read the book to learn more about the history of the 1899 newsboy strike, upon which Disney’s musical “Newsies” is based. This history, as it turns out, comprised a comparatively small portion of the narrative. Even so, I could not be altogether disappointed. Mostly because I learned that Spot Conlon was a real person. The joy of such a discovery is worth at least three stars, all on its own.