Tag Archives: George RR Martin

2013 Q2 Reading Report

I hope you’ll forgive me, but I’ve been in the process of moving during the end of June and all of July, so that’s why this 2nd Quarter Reading Report is coming so late. My 2nd Quarter in reading was strong, but the 3rd will be a bit paltry, I’m afraid (especially the first third) because of how time- and energy-consuming this move has been.

April

A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin – This book, along with the next, A Dance with Dragons, only follows half of the characters from the series. Considering how many of my favorite characters died in A Storm of Swords or were absent, I found this one a slower read. GRRM never really lets up, kills some more major characters and really tortures some others. Still, it was fascinating reading, the kind that just sucks me in and holds me hostage.

The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker – The premise of this book is brilliant: the planet’s rotation starts to slow, which makes the days gradually lengthen, causing a societal schism and also some very real environmental catastrophes. The story is narrated by a young girl who’s going through an ordinary adolescence in the middle of extraordinary circumstances. I was continually surprised by the details that made it all feel very, very real. Best of all, it could be read as a giant metaphor for our current times. Like this haunting sentence near the end of the book: “No one knows what the world will be like by the time I finish school.”

Her, Christa Parravani – A memoir about two twins, one who was raped, struggled to recover and overdosed, and the other who survived the loss of her sister. This book, while incredibly hard and heavy, is also beautiful. Parravani talks about family, sibling (and twin) bonds, competition between women, art and ownership, addiction and mental health. I read this book obsessively and the end was cathartic and earned. I felt like I’d been on a journey by the time I got there.

A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin – So, I got to find out what the other half of the characters were up to with this book. Everyone (who’s still living…) is in such a tough place in these last two books. It made for compelling reading, but was also hard on the heart. The evening I finished this book, I went to a literary cocktail party and was asked what I would do if anything happened to GRRM before the series is finished. I immediately started tallying the cost of hiring private security for him. What would I do? What am I going to do while I wait for The Winds of Winter? It was like 6 years between the last two books and 5 for the two before that. The last one was published in 2011. I’m going to go mad if I have to wait till 2016 or 2017, even with the t.v. series to enjoy. Dammit.

May

Jake and the Giant, E.G. Foley – The sequel to The Lost Heir. Like the first book, I read it at the same time as one of my favorite kids, the son of a friend. We have our own little book club of sorts. He sped through this, sneaking it to school and reading it in the car, etc. (I miss being a kid). Since I had to, you know, drive, instead of read in the car, I was a bit slower. I found this follow-up dealing with Norse mythology entertaining and silly, but also really hefty reading (literally, the book is heavy). The Kid and I are looking forward to The Dark Portal in October.

The Half-Life of Planets, Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin – I started this book because I love Emily Franklin and I finished it because I fell in love with the characters. It seemed a bit formulaic and earnest at first, but then it started to feel like the kind of books I loved as a teen. I’m kinda fascinated when writers (especially Y/A writers) team up to write dual character narratives. Since I’m now on a memoir kick, and after reading this, I’m looking forward to reading Halpin’s Losing My Faculties.

The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe – I expected this to be really sad, since it’s about a mother and son reading books together in waiting rooms while she’s being treated for terminal cancer. It is sentimental, highly so, but also highly celebratory of the life that Schalbe’s mother Mary Anne led. It’s a remarkable story and reminds me why I love books so much, the power they have to form and heal relationships. The variety of books that they read during her last days is fascinating, both how they weave into the narrative of her life and how they may be situationally incidental, but speak so much to character and passion.

The Spindlers, Lauren Oliver – Thought I’d zip right through this one, since it’s a short middle-readers book by an author whose older books I read in a few hours. It was a bit treacly and light for me, but I’m not exactly the target audience. Also, I’m not really in a light, childish frame of mind, reading-wise, lately. If you combined The Borrowers and Labyrinth, you’ve got The Spindlers. I think kids growing up with this book will adore it.

Dead After Dark, Charlaine Harris – So I’ve basically been reading the last few books in this series because I hate leaving things unfinished (see my recent reviews of Iris Johansen books and the Stephanie Plum series). It’s hard for me to voluntarily not finish the ride, which is why I try to start series only cautiously lately. I totally respect why Harris decided to end the Sookie Stackhouse series and I basically felt rewarded by how things turned out for Sookie. But this book was so crazy and over-packed with returning characters and plot threads. It felt like a bit of a rush to finish.

The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate – This book is amazing! Took me totally by surprise. The first person narrative of Ivan, a gorilla who paints in captivity, is so funny and poignant and such a smart book. I flew through this, laughing out loud, quoting the book to friends in conversation and was entirely invested.

June

Why We Broke Up, Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman – This is a pretty unique book, but not a unique experience. Each section of the book, illustrated by Kalman, is about an object from a break-up box and the story behind it, from when the couple were together. I’ve had at least one such box and stories about the scraps of paper and objects that carry relationship residue. Another book I underestimated which stuck with me long after I finished it.

Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell – This is a quick, vital book that everyone should read. Period. Mostly about women in the workforce by the COO of Facebook, it’s packed with fascinating personal stories and research about the disadvantages women are dealt (often, by themselves) in business, how both women and men can counteract these disadvantages to everyone’s advantage. This came up in no fewer than 300 conversations since I read it.

Poser, Claire Dederer – The subtitle says it all: “My life in 23 yoga poses.” Each chapter focuses on one particular pose/period of Dederer’s life as she’s learning yoga and what it reveals about her history and relationships. I have to add this one into the gumbo of my own book – the way she uses yoga poses as a frame for her memoir is a lot like what I’m hoping to do with my memoir (framed by tango). If I can be anywhere near as funny and brave as Dederer is in this book, even better.

Elysian Fields, Suzanne Johnson – My 225 Magazine review is available here.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer E. Smith – I hope they make a movie based on this book. Hell, *I* might make a movie off this book, if someone doesn’t. It’d be a sweet, smart rom-com like The Wedding Date meets Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Oh look, someone is making a movie. Good. I can focus on my memoir, since I’m all moved into my new place.

Now, I’m gonna go read so I can bulk up my third quarter…

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2013 Q1 Reading Report

Another year, another batch of books. Already, 2013’s reading has been spectacular.

January

Long After Midnight At the Nino Bien, Brian Winter – This one was recommended to me by a tango friend last year. I struggled to get interested in it for the first section or so, but once I did, it was a really quick read, amusing and informative. It’s the story of Winter’s time in Buenos Aires, learning tango and getting enmeshed in community there, and has a lot of political and tango music history. Sadly, I just heard through my own tango community that the Nino Bien may have closed recently.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green – I’ve loved John Green since I read An Abundance of Katherines in 2007. I’ll admit I was a bit put off by the grim subject matter of this book, but I knew it would be lovely in his hands. And it was. He writes about misfits so wonderfully and it makes sense that he’s so embraced in a world of Glee and It Gets Better because he’s been a voice telling teens to let their freak flags fly for a long time. I was already adult-ish when I first read him and I still appreciated the message. Anyways, this is one of those books that sticks with you long after you read it and you find yourself recalling it at odd, perfect moments.

Visions of Sugar Plums and Eleven on Top, Janet Evanovich – These books do not stick with you after you read them. I’d be hard pressed to tell you any specific thoughts about them a few hours after I finish them, but they are entertaining and distracting as you read. Evanovich has created a fun character, which is no mean feat, but the rest is fluff.

The Lost Heir, E.G. Foley – I won a signed copy of one of Gaelen Foley’s books, so I asked her to send me this one, a middle readers book she wrote with her husband. I already had a copy, which I gave to a friend’s son and we read the book together, talking frequently about the characters and the story. It was a really fun experience and we both loved the characters and the twists the story took. It’s a steampunk adventure in Victorian England, complete with magic and fantasy creatures and demented villains. Fans of the Dave Barry/Ridley Pearson Peter books will love this series, which continues with Jake and the Giant.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn – I mostly picked this one up out of curiosity, to see what all the hype was about and then I was just sucked breathlessly under the surface of the story and I didn’t come up again till I was done. I’ve rarely read such a brave, smart book that messed with my head as much. Maybe never. It was a phenomenal exercise in perspective and psychology.

February

A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin – Okay, okay, I’m sure you’re tired of me reading books because I like their t.v./movie counterparts, but it’s not something that’s gonna stop anytime soon. Friends of mine have been telling me to read these books for more than a decade, but I just never thought I’d get into them. Same with the HBO show. I must’ve checked the first season out from the library three times before I finally watched it. But then I was obsessed with seeing every minute of the second season, counting down to the third and reading all the books. Talk about an exercise in perspective. Epic is the only word and it hardly seems enough. I read the first book in about a week and would’ve read it faster if I hadn’t had to sleep or work.

I Saw You…Comics Inspired by Real Life Missed Connections, ed. Julia Wertz – This book has comic artists illustrating selected missed connections ads. I saw through a Goodreads update that a friend was reading it and was intrigued. It’s a mixed bag. Some of them are very poignant and well-executed and some are less so, but the book is definitely worth checking out.

Twelve Sharp and Plum Lovin’, Janet Evanovich – I think I’m only reading these books at this point because I hate leaving stories unfinished. I like to know what happens. Plus, I had a loan request for the next Song of Ice and Fire book and then ordered it online and it was taking forever for me to get a copy, for some reason. Had to read something.

A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin – Finally! I got my hands on this book. One of the things that most impresses me about the series is how well-developed the characters are, how thrilling it is to see the story from so many varied and contradictory perspectives. Everyone’s a villain and everyone’s a hero. The political intrigue and maneuvering is absolutely incredible. This one took me only about a week to consume as well.

March

Girl Land, Caitlin Flanagan – This is a hard book to define. A treatise (with an agenda) on the nebulous period of time between girlhood and womanhood, with research about proms and diaries of old, as well as pop culture references (but none past 1980), and a bit of a memoir aspect as Flanagan relates her own experiences. The book was fascinating, though I thought it was less successful when Flanagan started preaching to parents of modern girls at the end, making some good points, but very deluded about modern social communication and how to help girls kids interact with it. Also, she blithely says she’s the mother of boys and doesn’t have to worry about much of the danger she’s outlined, missing the significant point that parents have as much to teach boys about Girl Land, this period of female development she’s defined, as they do girls. Boys need to learn the lessons of respect for others and critical thought as much as girls do. What will change if we teach half our population something that we neglect to teach the other half? This is the same basic point Caitlin Moran missed when she defined ‘feminist’ in How to Be a Woman and left out men in her definition. Still, I’ve referenced both books constantly in conversation since I’ve read them. Here’s one review that says a lot of what I think better.

A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin – One of my friends, a huge GRRM fan, called this the “WTF?” book when I told her I’d started it and that is pretty much the best summary I can imagine. This book is wild and everything you assume will happen doesn’t and things you’d never imagine happening do. This is also the book that the current HBO season is based on, so I’m excited about what’s to come, while dreading a bunch of it as well.

The Devil in Her Way, Bill Loehfelm – My review of this one will be forthcoming, is out in 225 Magazine. Meanwhile, you can buy a copy and get the author to sign it at Garden District Book Shop April 30th, at Maple Street Book Shop May 14th and at Octavia Books May 21st.

This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz – Junot’s brilliant. These stories were quick little literary snacks, evocative and powerful and weird. But they ring true, as everything I’ve ever read by him does, and they feel so personal you have to call him “Junot,” as if you know him, like you’ve just had a really long conversation with him.

Out of the Easy, Ruta Sepetys – I read a bunch of write-ups about this one, especially in Entertainment Weekly, and despite the glowing review, I was thinking it was going to seriously suck. There’s a something about seedy historical New Orleans that intrigues people, so much so that it becomes almost fetishized. But I was pre-judging the book based on two things: the author doesn’t live in New Orleans and the title refers to the city as “the Easy.” The book, in reality, is wonderful. I love that it’s a YA title, but talks frankly about sex and crime in its historical setting. I’m not promoting gratuitous sex and violence in any medium or setting, but I absolutely appreciated that the book doesn’t condescend to its readers or cater to the group of YA-censors who do condescend to teen readers. Sepetys had a story to tell and she told it. Pretty freaking well.

Are You My Mother?, Alison Bechdel – A member of my writing group recommended Bechdel’s Fun Home, which is called a tragicomic and blew my mind when I read it last year. So, I was completely on board when I heard she had a new book out, this one a comic drama about her mother and psychotherapy. On paper, Bechdel and I have completely different biographies, yet I felt like she had already written my memoir. If that makes sense. Or, at least, she’d already done the psychology research for my memoir. But perhaps that’s the power of her narrative ability, matched with her visual artist instincts. Her books make you live in them until they are your stories, too.

Requiem, Lauren Oliver – This is the last book in the Delirium series, which I’ve been eagerly anticipating. Or is it the last book? It really didn’t feel like it. I liked that the book alternated between perspectives, between Lena and Hana, and I liked that we got a bit of Alex’s perspective in a separate short story. But. But, the story did not feel complete when the book was finished. I ran out of text, but I still had so many questions. I don’t need everything resolved and I didn’t even necessarily [SPOILER! STOP! SPOILER!] need the romance to be resolved cleanly, but Oliver has built this world and has given us no idea where it’s going after she stops writing about it. We need another book.

So I know my reviews aren’t strictly reviews in the traditional sense. They’re random thoughts about why I decide to read books and what I think of them after I’ve read them. Sometimes, I’m grumpy when I write them and maybe a bit rude (sorry, Janet Evanovich and Iris Johansen) and sometimes I’m still a little euphoric and obsessed (too many examples to name one). But, I think they say something about the person reading them, where I’m at at a given time or moment and the world around me as I’m reading. I hope you find that interesting. I love talking books, so feel free to share your thoughts too, even–especially–if you disagree with me. I find that interesting.

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Filed under books, Quarterly Reading Report, what I'm reading