November 2015 Wrapup: Weeks 3 & 4

3 Dec

Can you believe that the new year is almost upon us? It feels like yesterday that I sat down and laid out my goals for 2015. I’ve met almost all of them, aside from that list of big books I was scared of finishing, which is… definitely not going to happen in 2015. But 2016 is another year! And anyway, there’s still a month left. November was not a shining reading month for me, and for some reason my progress on books was quite slow given my usual speed, but I still read a good number! So let’s get on to the 2nd and 3rd weeks of November.

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The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. Finished November 18th. This is one of those books that I’ve always been embarrassed to not have read. And while I had grand ideas to finish off a ton of scifi books in November, I picked this up instead of my next planned book. Reading moods are temperamental things, and I never want to force myself to read something I’m not in the mood for, so I just went with it. “Group of smart/pretentious teenagers/young adults are in a close-knit school group with ~secrets~” is a genre I love, and this is basically the ur-text for that. So, of course, I really enjoyed it.

I feel like everyone has already read this, so I probably don’t have a single new thing to add to the discussion. I find that most people either love or hate the characters, while I had a mix of both: I loved everyone but Bunny (which is funny, because he’s probably the most-loved character in the context of the book). I love how all the twists and turns are perfectly apparent when you go back and look at everyone’s actions and relationships: they are a surprise when you’re reading, but not some of those “where the hell did that come from???” twists (which I really don’t enjoy, since they stretch believability for me). I both loved and hated that pivotal scenes are told in bits and pieces, or not at all. The writing was lush and beautiful, the characters deep and twisted, and I really loved the slow, methodical pace of the plot.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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A Deepness In The Sky, by Vernor Vinge. Finished November 22nd. Almost everyone likes this more than the first one in the series, A Fire Upon The Deep. I liked it significantly less. It had the same plot structure as AFUTD, with contrasting low- and high-tech civilizations, but… it’s just not the same. The high-tech storyline, which is really the center of the book, I might actually like better than the one in AFUTD. It contrasts two very different human societies and the clash of morals and culture was just awesome. It took a very dark turn early on, which I liked, though I found myself never really connecting to the characters.

My main issue with this book was the alien culture. Or really, the “alien” culture. These things are supposed to be huge, sentient spiders that developed on an incredibly harsh world, but their society is basically a carbon copy of 1950′s earth. They drive cars, listen to the radio, and even have military units structured just like American ones. There’s an explanation for this, but I found it really unsatisfying. And my #1 gripe: this is a science fiction book. It takes place on & around a planet whose sun goes dark every 60 years or so. That is a wickedly cool concept. And you’d think the science aspect would center around that, but instead it focuses on the on-ship and on-world tech, which I didn’t find particularly interesting. Despite my complaints I did like this book, I just didn’t love it and I thought it was a huge disappointment coming off the amazingness of the first one.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes. Finished November 23rd. After two very long books, I needed something short. This actually has the same basic premise as The Secret History (group of pretentious close-knit kids, something tragic happens, secrets are uncovered), though a large chunk of it follows what happens when these pretentious kids grow up. This is an incredibly short novel, but it packs a huge emotional punch. There are layers upon layers of meaning and secrecy that are slowly uncovered–or rather, quickly uncovered because the book is so short. But it fells long despite its brevity, probably because of the depth in the language & plot. This was a great palate-cleanser.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Brutal Youth, by Anthony Breznican. Finished November 25th. Another group of kids at school with ~secrets~. The unintentional theme of this month! I would have enjoyed this book so much more if it wasn’t YA. I’m so over young adult as a genre that I probably wouldn’t even have read it if I knew that going in. The writing here was too simple for the relatively heavy subject matter. There was a sort of flat affect to it, which given that this is a book about heavy bullying and a lot of very dark topics like abused children and suicide, was just not fitting.

There were many things I did like: I think the story was very strong and hit some incredibly emotional notes, and the characters were well-rounded. Even the ones I hated, like Lorelai, I felt like I understood. However, some of the plot is quite predictable. There are some twisty bits that you can see coming a mile off. I do wish there was a bit more building of suspense because a lot of very tragic things happen, but there’s just not enough emotional content in the writing itself. I think this book had a lot of potential and fell into the “simplify everything!” trope that’s so rampant in YA now. With some less cartoon-evil villains and more subtle writing, this would have been amazing.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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The Children of the Sky, by Vernor Vinge. Finished November 30th. I’m really bucking the trends with this series. I loved the first book, felt kind of meh about the second, and loved this one–which most people, it seems, dislike. Unlike the first two, this book focuses solely on a low-tech world (and is a direct sequel to A Fire Upon The Deep). In fact, this is probably more of a fantasy book than a scifi one. Sure, there’s some cool tech, but this is mostly about the weird alien world. The Tines, the pack-minds from the first book, are the real focus here. This book is really heavily about alien politics, spying, betrayal, and secrecy. I love all those things! I love the Tines! I love the human characters on the Tines world. Character development here is also pretty heavy, which I found lacking from A Deepness In The Sky. This… this actually might be my favorite of the three. It would be for sure if Greenleaf was more than a super minor character (though man was I happy to see her again!).

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

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