CJ’s Bookshelf: March Reads

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March is “Folklore” month in my reading challenge, so you may notice a common theme amongst a few of my reading selections this month (and it may lean more toward “Faerie tale” then folktale). See if you can pick out which novels that applies to. I am also in the process of reading a book of reimagined folktales and faerie tales, but haven’t quite finished it yet.

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

RubyI don’t often pick up books that I do not like. There’s the occasional book club choice that I’m not a fan of, but that’s normal – a book club would be rather boring if everyone loved every book they read. However, I usually have a good instinct for picking out books I’m going to enjoy, even when I know little about them. That’s how I discovered The Postmistress and A Reliable Wife. I had a good feeling about Ruby when I picked it up, but it never quite panned out. That’s not to say Ruby isn’t a good book; I enjoyed Bond’s writing style, and the fluid way she switched Point of Views – even occasionally taking the POV of a bird – but I just never really got into the story. I found myself rushing through it so I could move on to the next title on my list. I did, however, like the ending. I won’t give too much away, but I felt it was an appropriate ending for at least the title character. If you enjoy Toni Morrison or Zora Neale Hurston, then you may enjoy this novel. As I was reading I was reminded a lot of their writing.

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs

This book won’t be released until May 12, but I had the fortune of receiving a digital galley through Netgalley. I absolutely loved reading this book. I wish there had been something like this to read when I was just starting to accept my inner fangirl! There’s so many things that are helpful to know and understand – even at this stage in my life! I wish I had read it before I made an accidental Tumblr hashtag faux pas last month. (I’ve been on Tumblr for years and still haven’t learned all the ins and outs!). I also loved the chapter on fangirls and feminism. There’s still so much I would like to learn in this area, and I think Sam lays it out very clearly. Fangirls of all ages will enjoy this book! I will be posting a much more in depth review of the book in May, closer to the publication date.

Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin

ExtraordinayI read Werlin’s novel Impossible several years ago and really enjoyed it, so I found this at a local used bookstore and couldn’t resist.  I needed something light and enjoyable – I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of heavy fiction lately. I like the way Werlin subtly weaves Faerie into these novels – they’re not overt stories of Faerie and the story is done well. I didn’t enjoy Extraordinary quite as much as Impossible – I think the structure of the novel bothered me somewhat. The chapters were broken up by conversations with the Faerie Queen, so you knew almost everything that was going on before the protagonist (Phoebe), which left little mystery and just made me frustrated when Phoebe was slow to catch on. There was also a large element of the gorgeous mysterious man completely brainwashing Phoebe (using his faerie glamour) that made me really uncomfortable and I was ultimately dissatisfied with the way that situation ended (I don’t want to give away spoilers, but I wish Phoebe herself had had more agency in that situation).

Unquiet Dreams by Mark Del Franco

This is the second book in the Connor Grey series by Del Franco. Grey is a Druid who has lost much of his ability in a fight with an elf prior to the start of the series, but now helps the Boston PD with cases related to the Fey. I consider this series “Dresden Files Lite.” It’s clear Del Franco is attempting to reach the same audience and he doesn’t do a bad job. Grey is a likable character, though he doesn’t quite have the qit and charm of Harry Dresden. These books are also less complex than the Dresden Files series, but it you like Dresden and are looking for an interesting, easy read then you might want to give them a shot.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

the-color-of-magicFor years I kept telling myself one day I would finally read the Discworld novels, yet that day never came. When I heard the news that Terry Pratchett had died I decided the best way to honor him would be to finally make good on my promise to read his books. I loved this first book. It took a little while for me to get into it – probably because I’ve been reading a lot of darker fiction lately and had trouble adjusting to humor – but by the time the little Imp poked his head out of the camera box the first time I knew I was going to love this book. I loved the tone and the humor. It reminded me a lot of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I loved. I can’t wait to read further into Discworld.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This was a reread. Stardust was the very first Gaiman novel I ever read, and I fell in love with it immediately. I loved the world he created and the characters, and I loved the fairy tale aspect of the story. Gaiman really has a knack for tapping into his readers’ imaginations and giving them just what they want. I believe this is the third time I’ve read this book (the second time I actually read it in graphic novel form) and I loved it just as much as the first time, if not more. If I had to try to choose a favorite book, this would probably be one of my top choices.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

MagiciansI hated this book the first time I read it, but when it was chosen for book club I decided to try to give it a second chance. I still hate it. When I first read it I thought I only hated it because of the way it completely twisted some of my favorite novels from childhood (The Narnia Chronicles) but I realize now it’s much more than that. This novel has been described as being “Harry Potter for adults” but that statement couldn’t be more wrong. This is Harry Potter for adults who have become completely disillusioned by magic. There’s nothing even magical about this book – Grossman turns magic into science and takes away everything that’s magical about magic. The book feels completely sterile and antiseptic, with no heart or imagination at all; instead of the creativity and color Harry Potter inspires in my imagination, I pictured this whole world dreary and grey. The style and tone of the book made the narration feel toneless, and uninterested, which made it hard for me to care about what was happening or get into the story. I didn’t like any of the characters in this novel – not because they were unlikable, but because I simply didn’t care about them at all. And I haven’t even gotten into the minor things that bugged me, like the fact that the school’s calendar is randomly 2 months off from the rest of the world for no apparent reason. If you’re looking for Harry Potter for adults, do not read this book. Check out Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files instead.

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

My second foray into the Discworld was just as enjoyable as the first. In this novel we get to see a little more of the wizards in general, and even venture into Death’s home. One of my favorite things about these books is how Pratchett hints at things that might seem anachronistic in this world, but never comes out and names them – such as the game Bridge. There are small parallels between the Discworld and our world and I love it.

Fables vol. 3: Storybook Love

I am really enjoying this series and I think this is my favorite volume so far. Bigby and Snow White were my favorite characters from the beginning, so any story that focuses on them (especially both of them) I enjoy. The only problem I have with graphic novels is that I finish one within a few hours and immediately want the next.

Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

SeekerFirst of all, anything titled Seeker immediately makes me think of the Sword of Truth, even though this has nothing to do with that series. The plot and location of the this novel intrigued me, (how can I resist anything set in Scotland?) yet didn’t live up to my expectations. The plot was slow and the structure was weird. The multi-narration didn’t bother me, it was more the weird part 2 that was all flashback; why couldn’t that have been inserted more organically throughout the book? Then there’s the fact that half the book (at least it felt like it) was just two characters trying to avoid their problems, one by doing lots of drugs and the other by actually succumbing to voluntary amnesia. Something about that just bugged me, because it comes just as we’re getting to know who the characters are and makes them feel less heroic. The antagonist is equally frustrating as he’s not truly evil, he’s conflicted and constantly feeling guilty and hiding behind the men that he sends to do his dirty work for him, so he doesn’t have to personally beat up the girl he supposedly loves. The whole story felt kind of meh to me; there was no urgency to get it finished. Though I am curious enough to probably read the next one when it comes out, so I guess the author was successful after all?

Coming up in April:

My current reads include (a few have been on the list for a while because they got displaced by other titles):

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me by various authors

And my upcoming reads include (Subject to change based on whim and mood):

Cleopatra by Stacey Schiff
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
Orphan Train by Christine Baker Kline
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
Mort by Terry Pratchett

If you’re interested in staying up-to-date on what books I’m reading you can also find me on Goodreads.

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