Recent Reads 1.9.17

The holidays slowed us down some, but both of us still got to some great reads this month!

Michaela:

The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde- This was my 4th (5th?) re-read of this play! After Rikki and I watched the movie during one of our bookish Wednesday night dates, I hastily re-read it again because I just couldn't help myself! Oscar Wilde has created such an absurd, hilarious, and witty play; it's magical. Sharply satirical, bright, and easy fun, it never gets old for me and is one of the most purely delightful classics I've ever read. Pick it up if you doubt that classics can be riotously fun. 

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante- This is the first of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels that took the U.S. publishing world by storm a year or so ago, and I had heard so much good buzz around this book. I found it to be literary without being stuffy, the prose was straightforward, but also beautiful and deep; there is a lot to unpack in this deceptively straightforward novel. It's a really interesting peek at 1950's and on Naples and an equally interesting study of friendship and family. Nuanced, sleek, and powerful, this book really grabbed me, and I'm still thinking about the characters two weeks after finishing it (always the sign of an excellent novel). I have the next in the series waiting for me on my nightstand, and I can hardly wait!

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott- QUAINT. Thats really the best word for this novel. I can see why people always say this is a "holiday read", it's the perfect warm and cozy novel for this time of year and its straightforward moralizing and warm hearted antics fit the season. It is really such a mild mannered book, and it was slow going for me, though the last third or so picked up considerably (when Amy left for Europe and Jo for New York), and I was much happier with it. It's easy to see why this was considered a YA novel as it has it's share of gentle snark mixed with black and white views of right and wrong and is stuffed with patient (almost saccharine) morality about the virtues of domesticity, of valuing family and relationships over material things, of hard work, and of the importance of kindness and empathy. Adult classics tend to be far more ambiguous and deep, but this was warm and simple, which made for a cozy reading experience this past week of cold winter nights.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman- This was a quick read and one that drags you into the story effortlessly. Gaiman writes so matter of factly about his imaginary worlds you can't help but believe them. Like many of his novels, this one is dark and breathtaking and handled with finesse and realism, despite the magic. The ending is a little bit of a letdown, but also SUPER realistic so it's hard to be too disappointed in it. I really enjoy Gaiman's novels and this was no exception! 

The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley- This was my book club's pick for December and as usual I knew almost nothing about it going in. Turns out its a cross between the X-Men and the X-Files with supernatural happenings, secret societies, and people with crazy powers. The tone is funny, relaxed, even a tad absurdist, and the world is really richly and intricately built, despite only presenting passable character development. It's actually a rather brilliantly structured novel; just a really skillful blend of sci-fi and urban fantasy with a heavy dash of the paranormal, with plots and sub plots and a whole lotta world building. I've truthfully never read anything quite like it, and it was a really fun thriller/mystery/fantasy/supernatural/secret society novel. Talk about a genre bending book; I'd definitely recommend picking it up if this sounds like stuff you enjoy!

 

Rikki:

Beastly, by Alex Flinn - I didn't know this was a book until I'd already seen the movie. So of course, I had to go back and read it. Admittedly, this is one of those rare occasions where the movie is slightly better, but still a fun and light play on Beauty and the Beast. Beastly is a modern day retelling includes a shallow high school boy who seemingly has it all, until his vapid and conceited ways get the best of him when a witch casts a spell. Only by finding love for himself, not for looks, does he find that there is more to life than physical features. At the end of the book, the author, who is also a huge Beauty and the Beast fan (obviously), shares all the best stories with similar storylines, which I felt was the best part! I can't wait to look up some of her recommendations.

The Ocean at the end of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman - Ever since American Gods and the Graveyard Book, I've been hooked. I love the fantastical worlds Neil Gaiman creates and I get so lost in them, it's hard to get out again. In the best sort of way, of course. I find it so difficult to really explain his stories, because it's nearly impossible to really shorten his novels to a description that does any justice. Based on the back of the book, it's about a man who returns to his childhood home and recounts an impossible past. Simple as that. I do wish the man he became had become more to bring the story full circle, but nonetheless, it's a whole other world that Gaiman so incredibly paints for his readers. I can't help but love it!

Unbroken, by Laura Billenbrand - One of my goals this year is to read more history. I discovered last year that I had an undiscovered passion for our great American history, and I can't seem to get enough of it. This book was highly rated as a top contender of WW2 novels, and so, it arrived at the library just as I needed another book to read. The story centrally focuses around Louis Zamperini, great Olympian who joined the Army Air Forces and finds himself in a life threatening situation. A thought provoking, twist of a story that so far, has me turning pages to read about this incredibly fascinating man with a humbled and troubled beginning, middle, and end.

The Importance of Being Ernest, by Oscar Wilde - A great, light and humorous read. Encouraged by my other bookish half so we could watch the film version, I thoroughly enjoyed gaining insight to a stark, narrowly dry type of humor that I have never encountered in reading before. The play is about a man with an alter ego sidekick (fake brother) in the city, in contrast to his country self. While visiting a friend who discovers this hilarious anecdote, they are in love with women in each other's lives, and use one another to get to the girl.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott - I've been a fan of Alcott most all my life. Who hasn't though? She's a lovely writer and the movies made based off her work are equally priceless. Having watched Little Women as a girl (my mom loved it, I scarcely remember the film), I was more than ready to pick up the novel and mark it off my classics list. Being nearly 700+ pages, I was more than happy to read an abridged version, because while this is a lovely story, there were moments of slow reading that I'm unsure I could have enjoyed as much being dragged out. I greatly look forward to reading this with my daughter when she's a bit older.