Reading Resolutions

Well, 2010 is here. And with a new year comes new resolutions.  So here are my reading-related resolutions for 2010:

1) Read more non-fiction. I realized that my focus in 2009 had really only been on fiction, between the blogs I follow and the genres I enjoy. But there is a lot of great non-fic out there too, and I’d love to get back into the habit of reading it again.

2) Not be afraid to be a little bit of a book snob. I really enjoyed the post over at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? on “reading deliberately.”  I have to say, a lot of what she says reminded me of my own reading habits this year, especially being distracted by books that had a lot of hype and wound up being not so great.  I just felt like I wanted to read everything I saw, and the good stuff that I’ve been wanting to read for a while got overshadowed and pushed to the back burner.  That’s the stuff I want to focus on reading this year.

3) Write more reviews. Now that I’m done my MLIS (woohoo!), I’ll have much more free time to not only read, but to also write about what I’ve read.  The ex-English major in me (who was – ok, is – a nerd and actually enjoyed writing papers) loves writing, and writing reviews is a fun way to get that out of my system, so I’m really excited to have more time for this.  Which translates into…

4) Focus more on the blog! Like all of my resolutions, having more free time (again, woohoo!) makes this a possibility.  I started this blog just as a place to keep all of my reviews.  Over the last year or so I’ve started following a lot more blogs, and become more and more interested in the blogging community and improving my blog.  So, I’m working on a new name and hopefully a facelift in the near future, and with the help of my other resolutions, more frequent posts!  Also, thanks to anyone and everyone who has read and commented on my blog in the past – seeing that all this posting hasn’t been just for my own amusement has been encouraging! 🙂

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Fallen Angels, anyone?

As I’m sure you noticed (like you could avoid it if you tried), vampires have been it this year. The paranormal trend (in YA especially) doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon. Not that I have a problem with that, there’s some pretty cool stuff out there. But I’m not the only one who’s noticed that fallen angels seem to be on the rise (ha. ha.)

Exhibit A:
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
I haven’t gotten around to reading this one yet, and from reviews I’ve read it can be rather love it or hate it.  I get the impression that Patch is rather Edward-esque – he’s either the man of your dreams, or a control freak that you should stay far, far away from.  Once my copy comes in from the library, I’ll let you know my take on it.

 

Exhibit B:

Fallen by Lauren Kate

I first saw the cover for this over the summer, and just love it.  Gorgeous.  It just came out this week (although no libraries in my system have it yet…grrrr).  Apparently Disney has optioned film rights for it already…just one more reason to be on the lookout for more angels.

 

Exhibit C:

Angel Star by Jennifer Murgia

Not crazy about the cover art on this one, but I came across it on Goodreads…from the description, it seems to fit the upcoming trend nicely.

 

 

These are just the ones I’m aware of; have you come across any others??

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, and more!

Before I get into my review of Peter Ackroyd’s newest novel, I wanted to mention that Karin’s Book Nook is having a contest for a signed copy of Linger, the upcoming sequel to Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver!!  Shiver was just so good, and I don’t know about you, but I would love to win this one!  Here’s her post about the contest. I’m really looking forward to reading this one either way…loving the cover, too!

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, so on to the The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein.  I love neo-Victorian novels.  And Victorian novels.  And anything to do with that era.  I really do.  So I really wanted to like this, but, well, I didn’t.

It was rather slow to start for me. That may partially be because this has been a stressful week for me, but it finally picked up about 150 pages in.

Ackroyd has a great style – I didn’t feel so much like I was reading a neo-Victorian novel as I was the real thing at times. His settings and descriptions were wonderful, and the overall atmosphere of this was great.

As far as story and plot go, however, I wasn’t all that impressed by this one. It has an interesting take on the tale, with Frankenstein being a friend of the Shelleys rather than merely the subject of Mary’s tale (which does make an appearance, by the way), but something in the execution was lacking for me. The “twist” was obvious to me well before I got to the end, so I was disappointed by that as well.

This one gets three stars from me…I considered giving it two, but it gets an extra one for style.

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

So I read Shiver and really enjoyed it.  By a stroke of luck that rarely occurs for little old me, I won a copy of Ballad from the wonderful Angieville.  Intrigued, I grabbed Lament from the library (Ballad‘s predecessor, although both can be read as stand-alones without too much confusion, I think) and got reading.

Lament was great, although I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Shiver – it just seemed to be missing that unidentifiable something.  I enjoyed the Celtic edge it had to it, and Stiefvater’s use of faerie lore.

After reading so much about Dee and Luke, I was disappointed to find that we really don’t get much about them in Ballad, except through Dee’s unsent text messages to James.  I know this is supposed to be his story, and more of a companion novel than a sequel, but I found myself wondering about them quite a bit.  Also, although I really liked Dee in Lament, I found myself disliking her a bit here – from James’ point of view she seems incredibly selfish.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t a huge fan of reading from James’ POV – I’m not really sure why, since I love him as a character.  I have a tendency toward the bad boy rather than nice guy characters, but Luke (although I did like him) just seems so superficial in comparison to the depth and character that James has.  Nuala’s POV was always entertaining, especially as I watched her go from thinking about James as a victim to thinking about him as someone she cares about.

It also seemed like all of the action and all of the big reveals were clumped together at the end – there were some great scenes, but they might have been a little more effective if they were spread out.  I love the world she’s created though, as well as her characters – Mr. Sullivan in particular.  I’ll be interested to see where James and Dee’s relationship goes from here – it seems to be left a bit open for another book featuring them (perhaps the events of Ballad from Dee’s point of view?), and if there is another, I can’t wait to read it.  As it stands, Dee’s entanglement with Faerie as the cloverhand doesn’t seem like it will be over anytime soon.

Overall, an enjoyable read.  Great ending, too.  If you like Stiefvater’s style, you won’t be disappointed with this one.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I was a little apprehensive in picking this one up after reading some mediocre (and less than mediocre) reviews – and I only had a few days to read it before it was due back the library, and I was worried I’d slog through it.  Perhaps my low expectations had something to do with it, but I was pleasantly surprised, and really enjoyed this.

I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the whole thing.  Niffenegger does a wonderful job of setting the stage for the novel.  It starts out with a realistic depiction of our world, with a slight creepy factor due to Highgate Cemetery neighboring the flat.  And then, of course, there’s the haunting.  From the summaries I’d read, I wasn’t sure how literal this haunting would be – just an overbearing sense that Elspeth still “owned” the flat?  Her belongings and what she left behind keeping the twins from feeling like it was their home?  The hold her memory still has on Robert and the others she knew?  Or the actual presence of a ghost?  It turned out to be the latter, and I thought the “haunting” factor was very well done.  It’s gradually built up so that it’s almost believable, with Elspeth beginning as a weak, vaporous spirit and eventually becoming capable of moving small objects, etc., and the atmosphere is a big help in allowing the reader to suspend disbelief.

Speaking of which, the reader’s ability to do just that is important for this one, I think.  A lot of other reviews I read said the ending took it too far, pushing it past the point of believability.  I can see how; there are several twists at the end, some more far-fetched than others, and one that I saw coming from early on in the book.  Nonetheless, I think she ended it the only way she could, if that one big twist (if you’ve read it, you know which one I’m talking about – I don’t want to give anything away!) is something she was aiming for through the whole novel, and I get the impression that she was.   One the whole, it was beautifully written, and with great characterization (I especially liked Martin, and it was interesting to see how his journey – or lack thereof – paralleled Elspeth’s).  There were a couple of things that bothered me about the ending, but on the whole I really enjoyed this once I allowed myself to get lost in it.

The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt

51jim7NTY8LI haven’t read much Byatt since I finished my thesis last spring, and I didn’t realize how much I missed her writing. This was somewhat different (for me, at least) from her other works that I’ve read, in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. It spans social and political changes over a rather large period of time, centering primarily on the Wellwood family and others that have entered their social circles at some point or another. The large cast of characters could make it a bit difficult to remember who was who at some points, but overall I think I enjoyed all of them – they all had their roles to play in the big picture.

Now, my thesis was on her use of fairy tales and fairy tale elements – if she’d written this novel a few years ago, I probably could have centered the whole thesis on it! Fairy tales are vital to this story. Olive Wellwood is a writer of children’s stories in Victorian (and later, Edwardian) England, and her fairy stories and themes almost define her family.

I especially loved her portrayal of women in this novel. Olive’s children (and their childhood playmates) are growing up in a time when it is becoming accepted for “respectable” women to hold “real” jobs – but often at the cost of any romantic desires or chances of marriage. Dorothy (who wants to pursue the career of a doctor/surgeon) is perhaps the most affected by the double standard, observing that although there are female doctors with husbands, those are few and far between. Griselda and Florence grapple with this decision as well. One can pursue a career, but by the time her studies are through in her late 20’s, she would be considered something of an old maid. One of my favorite passages in the novel that sums this struggle up nicely comes on page 495:

“Florence was in a turmoil. She had promised herself to Geraint, and she was now promising herself to years of study. She did not think Newnham College would care for married students. She wished to disturb her father, at some ferocious girlish level, and felt – she was not really thinking – that the engagement would do that.
And yet – like Griselda, she did want to think. And she did see her future as, perhaps, the choice between thinking and sex.”

Byatt has always done a wonderful job of exploring the roles that women play in various situations, past and present. This novel is no exception.

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

41UcQIQgnaL**spoiler alert!**

 

Where to begin??

For the record, I spent the last…hmm, 4 hours reading this to finish it, when I really should have been doing homework. Oops. But it got to that point where you just have to find out how it ends – the point of no return, shall we call it. Once that jerk took Jem, that was it for me. I looked at the clock, and said “Screw it.”

Speaking of Jem, that means that Roger has gone back for no reason at all, and has no way of knowing this unless Brianna (who else?) goes back as well to tell him! If something happens to Roger after all of this, I will be very upset – though I don’t think Diana would do it. Speaking of this whole situation, the guy’s last name is Cameron, which I totally didn’t catch on to until I saw his name again when he showed up in the study. So I’m thinking he’s a descendant of Jocasta (and also related to Bree?), knows about the gold and recognized it for what it was, and now wants to claim it again. I knew he was up to no good with Roger’s book.

I’d accidentally seen a bit of a review earlier that was upset about the cliffhanger ending. For a good 30 pages or so I was absolutely terrified that this one would end with Claire still thinking Jamie was dead, and I really don’t think I could have dealt with that for the next however many years until book 8! Not that they got much of a reunion, and Jamie certainly isn’t out of the woods yet, but at least they can both live (relatively) happily in my mind until then!

I wasn’t terribly interested in the adventures of Willie and Lord John throughout the book though – at least until they became intertwined with Jamie & Claire’s story, which I knew they would be eventually. I was always happy to see that the next chapter was about Jamie & Claire or Brianna & Roger.

It really is the characters that make these books though. When I sat down to start this book, it was so nice to reacquaint myself with them, and read about them again. They truly do become like old friends, and I realized (while fuming that Claire might not find out about Jamie, etc.) how desperately I wanted them to be happy. I know it will be a while until I can visit them again (unless I reread the series, which I very well might – at least the first!), but I do look forward to it!