Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wrap-Up: What I Read in June

June was the first month of summer vacation and I wholeheartedly jumped in to the summer reading spirit! Even more, every book I read this month except for Black and Blue will be counted towards the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Here are the books I read this month:

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

This is one of those books that it seems like everyone has read but because it was never required in school, I never got to it. I finally read it, and it really surprised me. It is exactly what it says it is: the inner thoughts of a 13-year-old girl, one who can be a brat like the rest of us. I didn't love this book, but I love it for the fact that it exists. It gives an invaluable inside perspective into life at this terrible time in history, and it is inevitable heartbreaking for the fact that it ends. 3 stars.

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, up until about the last fifty pages. I think it probably actually started to go down hill during the last 100 pages. I was fully engrossed in the story, and Desai's writing is beautiful. But the last 100 pages or so felt distinctly different from the first half of the book; I felt somehow not prepared for it, as if the first part were misleading. I found the ending unsatisfying. However, overall I still really enjoyed the book, and for the fact that it had me so immersed, and that it is a story that I know will stick with me, I gave it four stars on Goodreads.

Constructed of Magic by Louis Alan Swartz

Here is the review I posted on Goodreads for this short poetry collection:

"I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This collection contains some poems that I really enjoyed, but as a whole it just didn't speak to me. I was also confused as to who was the intended audience. The collection gave definitions for words constantly, and not only did I find it distracting, but it also felt like the collection was making assumptions about the reader's intelligence. However, the book does have beautiful illustrations, and as I said I did find some poems that I really liked."
2 stars.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin

This is the first science fiction novel that I have ever read by choice. LeGuin is a very intelligent author, and I was glad to find that I was not alienated (sci-fi, aliens, ha) by the science-fiction elements. The story deals with dreams and the main character's ability to change the world with his dreams. The novel felt very grounded in reality, and the characters very human. Sci-fi enthusiasts may say "Well, duh!" when reading such remarks, but for someone outside of the genre, I was pleasantly surprised by these facts. The villain was perfectly reprehensible, the conflict was unbelievably frustrating, but LeGuin handled it all very well, and in the end I really enjoyed the book. 4 stars.

Re Jane by Patricia Park

I was really excited to read this new release, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations. It had a nice ending, and I overall enjoyed my time reading it, but I didn't ever really get in to it. And as a purposeful retelling of Jane Eyre, it just doesn't hold a candle to the original. However, it was a fun read and I would give it 3 and 1/2 stars.

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Finally I have read this book! As a lover of family sagas and a person who took Spanish classes for four years, this book has been on my radar and TBR for ages, and finally I can say that I read it. I really liked this novel, particularly towards the end when the characters are amidst political uproar in their country. As in any other family saga, we get to meet and observe many different characters within one family as they grow and change and continue the family legacy. Getting snippets of Estaban Truebas perspective interlocked with the omniscient narrator was a brilliant way for Allende to demonstrate character. It did take me a while to read, and at times I found it slow, so the novel is not one of my new favorites, but it is a novel that will stick with me and I'm so glad I finally read it. 4 stars.

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

This book made me incredibly uncomfortable. And I think that was the intention. However, I just can't say I enjoyed this book. I can't think of many, if any, characters that I have liked less than the main character of this novel, David Lurie. And while I think that Coetzee is a talented and beautiful writer, as I said I didn't enjoy reading this book. It was just too unsettling. And I enjoy reading about difficult topics, and I enjoy unhappy books, but I think there was just nothing for me to relate to and grasp on to in this novel, and I was just too put off by the narrative voice. But this is also one of those books that has that looming presence and you know it's important, and so you can't not give it credit. And isn't the fact that it made you uncomfortable show that is is effective. I'm not sure, but these were the circular arguments going on in my head as I tried to rate it on Goodreads. For now I've settled on 3 stars.

Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen

This is a book, as you can probably guess by the title, about a woman who escapes her abusive husband with her 10-year-old son. It's a slow, quiet, read, but sometimes that's exactly what I want. And I liked that despite the fact that this book was written almost 20 years ago, I didn't find it predictable. Though it did hit the abuse story cornerstones, they usually happened not at the time I was expecting them to or in a way that I found original. Overall a good read. 3.75 stars.