November 2015 Wrapup: Weeks 1 & 2

17 Nov

I had kind of a bumpy start to November, which is why I didn’t do a wrapup for week 1. I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted my reading to go in and felt generally kind of slump-y. Actually, I’ve been doing a lot of dual-week wrapups which you might have noticed. I’m still trying to figure out if weekly or bi-weekly is best: I’d like to stick to one format, but it really depends on how many books I finish in a week! I mean, does anyone want a weekly update if I only finish 1 or 2 books? But if I do 5 in a week, I don’t want to wait until the next one to review. It’s a conundrum. Anyway, let’s get into the reading adventures!

2

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by JK Rowling. Finished November 3rd. So in the beginning of November I felt kind of lost. Most months I have a theme (like October was horror) or I pick out a series. My to-read list is intimidatingly long, so I always have something to pick from. But I don’t know what it is about November… it’s my least-favorite month, I feel the most blue, and I just didn’t know what to do with my (reading) self. So, back to comfort food, which for me is Stephen King, Harry Potter, or one of my favorite books. I went with a combo: my favorite Harry Potter! I don’t know how many times I’ve read this, so does it even count? But this time no skim reading, I took my time and felt all those good nostalgia tingles.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Brady VS Manning, by Gary Meyers. Finished November 5th. So I’ve probably never mentioned it on this blog, but I have a passionate love of football. I’ve been watching it practically my whole life, but oddly I’ve never combined my love of books and love of football. My mom actually downloaded this one and asked me if I wanted to buddy read it and I was like, hell yes! Finally, these two areas of my life are combined!

If you don’t like football, this is not the book for you. Even if you do like football, it might not be for you. If you like reading endless stats, checking rankings on 6 different sites every week, scrolling through every article about your favorite team… then man, you are gonna love this. It’s filled with an insane amount of details, stats, and anecdotes about (of course) Brady and Manning. I love Manning and hate Brady (though baby Eli is my fave, of course) but even I felt bad for Brady while reading his backstory. This isn’t a perfect book, though: the writing is kind of dry and repetitive, and I feel like there was more about Brady than there was Manning (plus Meyers skims over the Eli/Brady rivalry). In terms of enjoyment based purely on my nerd-like love of football, this was 5 stars. Based on writing, probably 3. So I tried to round the rating out right in the middle.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff. Finished November 8th. As you can see, I was all over the place in the first week of November. People kept mentioning this book right along with A Little Life in terms of their favorites of the year and for some reason I thought “hey, I could really go for some dense and depressing literary fiction!” And that was such a good decision, because I LOVED it, and it really got me back in the mood for reading. I went into this expecting a book about marriage with two unlikeable main characters, because that is what basically every review frames it as. But that’s not what Fates & Furies is at all. It is a book about a marriage, but it is not really a book about marriage as a theme or institution. And the main characters are far from good, but they are hardly unlikeable. They’re complex and wonderfully real.

This book is really about deception, betrayal, and revenge. It’s subtle, and doesn’t really come together until the end, but it does so beautifully. There is also the question of memory, perception, and whether our actions really matter in the grand scheme of things, a theme I really adore. What makes something the “true” version of events when everyone remembers it differently? Does it even matter? I could say SO much about this book (and have!) so you can check out a more in-depth review here.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge. Finished November 12th. I wasn’t really feeling like a long fantasy series for November, so I turned to scifi! Because let’s be honest, those are the genres that most often have series. I picked this book kind of at random, but I guess not really randomly because my dad recommended it to me a few months ago right around when I read Axis. While I love most forms of science fiction, my favorites are definitely space horror and space opera: the more epic the better. So this, a super epic space opera, is right in my wheelhouse. It also has one of my favorite, and super-obscure, features: when a book combines the story of a very high-tech world with a very low-tech one (as seen in The Void trilogy and the last book in the Revelation Space series). Part of A Fire Upon The Deep takes place in an advanced civilization with crazy tech and aliens (including talking coral), while the other is on a medieval world with some of the craziest aliens I’ve ever met. I won’t spoil it, but they are just… amazing.

The world here is EPIC. You could easily set 10 books in it and still have enticing material. The premise is that the galaxy is divided into zones that limit what technology works. There’s the Unthinking Deep, which is at the center and where basically nothing works; the Slowness (where humanity started out and only basic tech functions); the Beyond, which is super high-tech; and the Transcend, where post-physical all-powerful beings dwell. The plot goes between the zones, and gives us what is essentially a light-years-long high speed chase (awesome!). I don’t want to give away much of the plot, but if you like scifi that gives you that sense of wonder, read this. You won’t regret it! Unless you do. Then you can blame me.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Slow Bullets, by Alastair Reynolds. Finished November 12th. As you might have guessed, November is going to be scifi month! After A Fire Upon The Deep I wanted more. I loved the Revelation Space series and there’s many Alastair Reynolds books I haven’t read, so I decided to dive into the newest one. This is actually a novella, so it’s kind of impossible to even describe the basic plot without spoilers (I would recommend not reading a synopsis before diving in). It reminded me of how much I love Reynolds: his bleak worlds, the amazing fresh ideas, his strong female characters and grey morality. I loved every single aspect of this. If you like happier, bright scifi with a sense of hope this might not be for you. But if you like a more cynical worldview, you should definitely try out Reynolds.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King. Finished November 15th. I was so bummed that this book didn’t come out in October (since, you know, spooky book month) and then I totally forgot about it. Oops! Better late than never. I love King and his short stories are definitely my favorite thing he does, so of course I had to read his new collection. Unlike his earlier ones, Skeleton Crew and Night Shift, this contains a mix of horror and straighter literary fiction. Of course there’s an element of the macabre in everything he touches, but this collection is definitely lighter on the horror. There are almost no monsters! I know, crazy. But it still reads like classic King.

We have a car story, quite a few dissolving marriages (including the amazing “Morality,” which is already one of my favorites of his), sad tales of aging parents, creepy evil kids (like in “Bad Little Kid” one of my favorites from the collection), stories clearly reflective of King’s addictive past and his post-accident pain, and of course a classic apocalyptic tale (“Summer Thunder” which is so brilliant and it almost made me cry, because sad animal stuff). There were, as always, a few duds (“Premium Harmony,” “The Dune,” and “Blockade Billy” didn’t really do much for me) but were more than balanced out by the good. The longer stories, like “Ur” and “Obits” were just spectacular. A really well-rounded collection.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Grownup, by Gillian Flynn. Finished November 15th. Two years ago, when I did my first 52 book challenge, I devoured all of Gillian Flynn’s books (Sharp Objects was my favorite).  I’ve been waiting patiently for a new one, but with all of her movie work it seems like we might be waiting a few more years. But in between, a bit of Flynn in the form of a short story. It was actually originally published in Rouges, a short story collection, but I have such an aversion to R.R. Martin that I skipped it. Thankfully a solo version has been released.

I have mixed feelings on this. It’s got all the traits of her work: a morally ambiguous and ambitious female protagonist, manipulative people, twists and turns, and the stereotypical dark undertone we’ve come to expect. But it was WAY too short, and the various twists at the end were way too close together and felt incredibly rushed. I would have enjoyed this a lot more as a novella, with more time given to flesh out the characters & motivations. The ending was just too ambiguous, and we don’t have enough information to make an informed decision about what we “think” happened. Enjoyable enough for a short read, but also kind of disappointing.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

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