wrap up: books read in September 2017

  • All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan ★★★★★ + review
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng ★★★★ + review
  • Things That Happened Before the Earthquake by Chiara Barzini ★★★ + review
  • Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land ★★★★ + review
  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) ★★★ + review
  • All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld ★★★ + review

Best: All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan
Runner upGood Me, Bad Me by Ali Land
Worst: Things That Happened Before the Earthquake by Chiara Barzini

SEPTEMBER TOTAL: 6 books
YEARLY TOTAL SO FAR: 78 books

Three 3 stars, two 4 stars, and one 5 star.  A pretty solid reading month.  And I love how these covers look together.

The reason my monthly total is comparatively low (I read 9 last month and 11 the month before that) is because this is the month I decided to tackle War and Peace.  I’m currently about halfway through that…. and while I can’t say I’m loving it, I know I’m going to feel a pretty big sense of accomplishment when I finish.

In addition to War and Peace I’m currently reading The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride (which is taking me forever because… well, if you’ve read this book you’ll understand why it’s taking me forever) and Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart.

As always, I don’t have a definitive TBR for the next month, but here are a couple of books that are somewhere on the horizon… I’m going to buddy read The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater with Steph at some point, my bookclub is reading The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani, and I have The End We Start From by Megan Hunter from Netgalley and I’m looking forward to that.  So, hopefully those plus a few others, and I’ll keep plugging along with War and Peace.

Also, this isn’t strictly book related, but next weekend I’m seeing the Les Mis tour with two of my favorite bloggers, Chelsea and Steph (and one of my other friends) – as I haven’t met either of them irl yet, I’m really looking forward to that!  Also Les Mis.  I can never see Les Mis too many times.

Speaking of theatre… I also went to New York earlier this month (it feels like a million years ago) and saw two shows: I saw the closing performance of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, which I’d already seen earlier this summer, and getting to see the final show was a fantastic and bittersweet experience.  I also saw the first preview of A Clockwork Orange, which was…. Not Good to say the least….. I wrote up my thoughts on that and posted them to tumblr, but I was wondering, would you guys be interested in me posting my theatre reviews on here, or should I stick to books?

One last note – this is the month I started using Twitter more regularly, so feel free to follow me on there @ paceamoregelato.

What was your favorite read from September?  Comment and let me know!

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book review: All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

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ALL THE BIRDS, SINGING by Evie Wyld
★★★☆☆
Pantheon, 2014

So, here’s the thing. This book is graphic. Horrifying depictions of animal death abound. And I’m a huge animal lover, so the way I get through reading that kind of stuff is to desensitize – I’m able to sort of turn the emotional side off long enough to read about graphic descriptions of sheep in agonizing pain. The problem is, doing that sort of deadens my emotional reaction to the rest of the book, too. I felt like I wasn’t able to engage with this novel the way I was supposed to – what was probably meant to come across as an intense emotional journey left me feeling sort of hollow.

All the Birds, Singing is a novel as bleak as the coastal English terrain where the protagonist, Jake Whyte, finds herself living as a sheep farmer. Jake is running from some kind of mysterious event in her past, that we slowly learn about through a series of flashback chapters that occur in reverse-chronological order. I was initially intrigued by this backwards timeline, but ultimately found it to be rather baseless in its execution.

This is a novel which flits between multiple genres – first it’s literary, then it becomes a thriller, wait, now it’s vaguely paranormal fantasy or magical realism – but instead of these elements existing in harmony to play off one another, the whole effort came across as rather disjointed.

But there are good things, too. I found this novel’s treatment of gender roles fascinating. Jake, with her traditionally male name, lives a rather stereotypically masculine existence – a manual laborer living in self-imposed isolation. It isn’t until a male figure enters her life that her dreary farmhouse takes on a homely quality. The dynamic between Jake and this stranger, Lloyd, is very compelling, and probably my favorite thing about this novel.

It’s really difficult to give a bottom line for this book. This is the kind of novel that everyone is going to have a different experience with. Where some readers will find it suspenseful and thrilling, others will find it boring and tedious. I’m not sure I fall into either category… this novel’s biggest strength is undoubtedly its atmosphere, and I respect Wyld’s skill at crafting a setting, and it did engage me on an intellectual level. But it’s a difficult book to pour your heart into as a reader without coming out feeling kind of sick. 3.5 stars.

The Mystery Blogger Award #2

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I was nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award by the lovely Mischenko at Read Rant Rock & Roll – thank you!!!  If you don’t already follow her you absolutely should because she is super sweet and writes wonderful posts.  This is my second Mystery Blogger Award – first is here.

How Does It Work:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog
  • List the rules
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Mention the creator of the award
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  • Nominate up to 10 people
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  • Ask your nominees any five questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question
  • Share a link to your best post(s)

Three Things About Myself:

1. I’m someone who can put a book down at any point and tbh I don’t fully understand people who are such sticklers about needing to get to the end of the chapter.  Like… what if it’s dinner time and you still have 30 pages left, do you just starve??  Do you never bring books with you to waiting rooms or places where you have a few minutes to read at a time??  Explain your ways to me???  (I guess YA lit tends to have shorter chapters, so maybe this is an adult lit thing?)

2. I don’t drink coffee but I do drink a ridiculous amount of tea.

3. When I ‘graduated’ elementary school (or whatever) I was voted ‘best handwriting’ in my class and it is a title I strive to live up to every day.

Five Questions from Mischenko:

1. Is there anything that you don’t enjoy about blogging?

Okay, so, 95% of the time I actually love writing reviews – I find it really helpful in getting my thoughts together and I just love talking about books.  That remaining 5% are times when I read a book and I just don’t really have anything to say, where writing reviews is a bit like pulling teeth – and whenever this happens to me it always seems to be with ARCs, i.e., books that I actually need to review.  So that’s always frustrating.  But I guess enjoying myself 95% of the time isn’t too bad.

2. What’s your favorite season and why?

Summer – I’m not a massively outdoorsy person but I still love being outside when it’s warm, and I like doing things like kayaking and playing tennis outside.  Also I love how green it is.

3. What’s one of your favorite reads this year so far?

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne.

4. What do you love doing most: reading, watching movies &TV, listening to music, or something else?

This will come as a shock to everyone, but, reading.  I mean… there is a reason I’m a book blog and not a film blog.  I hardly ever watch tv or movies… and I listen to music when I’m driving (admittedly that is quite a lot as I have a super long commute) but that’s pretty much it.

5. What are you most afraid of?

Okay, I’m a weirdo, but my biggest fear is actually vomiting.  I had a really traumatic experience with it when I was younger and have been emotionally scarred ever since.  (Not even really joking lol.)

My Best Post:

Okay it may not be my ‘best’ but I am actually pretty proud of my Fancasts posts that I did for T5W last week.


I actually think I’m going to skip the nominations on awards that I’ve already done before, because I can never remember who I tag in these things anyway, and coming up with questions is hard.  But if you want to answer Mischenko’s questions, consider yourself nominated!

top 5 tuesday: Characters to Team Up With to Rule the World

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

SEPTEMBER 26TH – Top 5 characters I would team up with to rule the world!

Characters’ moral compasses may vary.

51bcsc2fcflSansa Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin).  My girl!!!  I think I’ve waxed eloquent about my love for Sansa Stark enough on this blog, so I’ll just get right to it.  Sansa is the sort of character who has a tremendous amount of growth, and while I wouldn’t necessarily want to team up with her 11-year-old self to rule the world, the young woman she becomes is one of the most formidable and capable characters in the entire series.  She learns from the best and the worst alike, and she knows how to navigate the complex political situations she finds herself in.  I want to team up with her to save Westeros and then dismantle the patriarchy.

23437156Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo).  (I would just like to point out that Sansa and Kaz are like….. the very embodiment of the two Types of characters I always fall for.  The dichotomy of my being summed up in this one unlikely pair.)  Anyway, this one doesn’t require a whole lot of explanation… Kaz is the sort of character you’d rather have on your side than against you, so while he may not be the most trustworthy person in the world, I’ll take my chances.  He’s the sort of criminal mastermind who could easily take over the world if he decided that would be an advantageous course of action.

41cigepew5l-_sy344_bo1204203200_Henry Winter (The Secret History by Donna Tartt).  Henry is one of the most memorable characters I’ve ever encountered.  He may not be a Good Person, but I don’t think he’s a bad person either… and at any rate, he’s another one who I’d rather have on my side than against me.  Plus, his idea of taking over the world would probably include ‘make The Iliad required reading for everyone’ and let’s be real, that aligns very nicely with my own agenda.

1371Helen of Sparta (The Iliad by Homer; classics).  Anyone powerful enough to (inadvertently) bring about a war is someone I want to be partners in crime with.  Helen is one of my favorite characters, and the thing that makes me defend her character is how little agency she has in her narrative: she’s stolen by Paris and then her husband Menelaus wages a war to get her back.  The question of what Helen herself wanted has long been debated – did she go willingly with Paris, or was it kidnap? – and anyway, I’m saying all this because I want to give Helen a narrative where she’s in total control.  i.e., Ruling the world.

pillars-of-the-earthAliena of Shiring (The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett).  Aliena is one of the most capable characters I can think of.  She goes from being brought up in nobility to having absolutely nothing, to starting her own business as a wool merchant.  She’s someone who gets shit done, and above that, she’s also just a deeply good person.  I’d gladly rule medieval England with her.


 

Which character(s) would you team up with to rule the world?  Comment and let me know!

book review: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

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THE SILKWORM by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
★★★☆☆
Mulholland Books, 2014

I read The Cuckoo’s Calling earlier this year (not sure what took me so long) and loved it, but I was even more excited to start The Silkworm. I loved the idea of a murder mystery set in the publishing world, as this is much more my area than the foreign and glamorous entertainment industry, the setting for the previous Cormoran Strike novel. So it is with much sadness that I have to admit I found The Silkworm to be kind of a letdown.

This book was a hundred pages longer than it needed to be, and I have a simple suggestion for paring down that page count: remove every instance of Strike complaining about his knee hurting, Robin fighting with her fiancé, Strike resolving to use fewer taxis in the future, Strike pining after his horrible ex, and Robin and Strike going out to lunch. All of that comprises a pretty solid bulk of this novel, which passes the point of character-driven into the area of complete tedium. Rowling needed an editor with a firmer hand.

The plot itself was punishingly convoluted. Not only are there a lot of characters, there’s also a story within a story which contains thinly veiled references to ‘real’ people – it’s just a lot to keep track of. The pace languishes – there just weren’t enough clues dropped throughout to keep me fully invested. I won’t say anything specific about the ending – just that I didn’t experience the shock and awe that The Cuckoo’s Calling‘s resolution had elicited from me.

I know I’m probably giving off the impression that it was a chore to read this book, but it wasn’t. I love JK Rowling’s prose, I love her characters, mainly the quick-witted and kindhearted Robin and the abrasive but efficient Strike, and I’m looking forward to continuing this series. I’m only hoping Career of Evil wows me a bit more than The Silkworm did.

top 5 wednesday: Fancasts

Top Five Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the goodreads group to learn more.

T5W: September 20th: Favorite Fancasts:  Discuss your preferred fancasts for some of your favorite characters. (Fancasts means actors you’d like to play your favorite characters or imagine your favorite characters as.)

This is something I think about a lot when I read, and I was having a really hard time narrowing it down, so we’re doing 5 men and 5 women!

The women:

Tatiana Maslany as Miranda in Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.  I absolutely love Station Eleven – I’ve read it twice and it has such a theatricality to it that I’d love to see it play out either on stage or on screen.  The character that I connect to the most in this novel is Miranda, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about who would do a good job at playing her, and I think Tatiana Maslany fits the bill perfectly.  Their physical descriptions match, and Tatiana has that intelligent, artsy look about her that I think would be able to easily embody the spirit of Miranda.

Jessica Brown Findlay as the narrator in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.  The unnamed narrator in this novel is youthful, romantic, kind, and a bit naive, and I think Jessica Brown Findlay would play her with the appropriate sort of charm and humility.

For the role of Rebecca, I’m torn between Rachel Weisz (love of my life) and Eva Green.  Thoughts?

Shoba Narayan as Inej Ghafa in Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.  Shoba is a theatre actress most recently seen as the Natasha understudy in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.  While Inej and Natasha are two entirely different types of characters, I still think Shoba would rock it.  Just look at her expression – she’s got that Inej-esque ‘I’m adorable but I could still fight you and win’ thing.

Rosamund Pike as Cathy Ames from East of Eden by John Steinbeck.  There was news about an East of Eden remake in 2014 with Jennifer Lawrence cast as Cathy, and I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen, not least of all because Rosamund was born to play this role.  She’s got the ‘I will charm you and then kill you’ thing down pat.  And she’s just a fantastic actress that I think would bring the appropriate sort of depth to Cathy’s very complex character.

Saoirse Ronan as Camilla Macaulay in The Secret History by Donna Tartt.  I’m obsessed with Saoirse Ronan and pretty much fancast her in everything, but this role in particular I think is perfect for her.  Camilla is quiet, intelligent, subtle – all qualities that Saoirse has shown time and again that she can play brilliantly.  I’m not sure who I’d cast as her twin brother Charles, though – thoughts?

The men:

Cillian Murphy as Cyril Avery in The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne.  This is a tricky role to cast, because even though Cyril is the heart and soul of this novel, he also manages to be eclipsed by the larger personalities around him.  I think it’s important to cast an actor who could play the role with a sort of subtlety and quiet humor, as well as being the kind of person you just want to root for through everything, and Cillian Murphy seems perfect for it.

Dev Patel as Saeed in Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.  I’m obsessed with Dev Patel, he’s another one of these actors who I fancast in everything.  I think he would be perfect as kindhearted, idealistic, sensible Saeed – that seems to be his personality anyway, so casting him is kind of a no-brainer.  Any ideas for Nadia?

Matthew Beard as James in Tender by Belinda McKeon.  (I’m risking my life in certain friend circles by not putting Domhnall Gleeson here, and I agree that Domhnall would have been perfect for the role ten years ago, but the fact is, he’s too old now.)  Matthew Beard is a sort of lesser known actor whom I love a lot – I got to see him in Skylight on Broadway in 2015 alongside Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy, and the energy and youth and vivacity that he brought to his limited stage time makes me think he would be absolutely perfect as James.  Side note: he is also my Francis Abernathy fancast, but I decided to stick to one character per book for this post.

John Boyega as JB Marion in A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.  There’s something about this book that resists fancasting, to me.  I know last year Scott Rudin signed on to adapt it as a tv show (sigh), but I’m selfishly hoping that doesn’t go anywhere…  I think if A Little Life has to be adapted, it would best work as a play – I don’t think a tv show or film would be able to capture the heightened drama and theatricality of the narrative without coming across as melodramatic.  All that said, there’s one actor that I think would work really well in this story, and that’s John Boyega as JB.  John seems like such a nice, warm person and JB is… not quite that, but John’s proven that he’s able to act in roles where he has more of an edge (Imperial Dreams, etc) and I think he’d be able to capture what makes JB so frustrating and sympathetic simultaneously.  I mean, I still don’t want to see A Little Life adapted – but if it has to be, I want John Boyega in it.  (I wouldn’t be able to cast Willem or Jude if my life depended on it.)

Colin Farrell as John Proctor in The Crucible by Arthur Miller.  And obviously, we can’t wrap this up without including my man… it is my dearest wish in life (okay maybe not my dearest, but top ten) that Colin Farrell start to do more theatre, and ever since seeing Ivo van Hove’s production of The Crucible last summer, I can’t get the idea of Colin as John Proctor out of my head.  It’s the kind of role that Colin usually goes for – leading man suffering some kind of existential crisis – but I also firmly believe that Colin’s the kind of actor whose performance depends on the quality of the script he’s working with (I’m allowed to say this, I’ve literally seen 31 of this man’s films as of this weekend), and you can’t get much better than The Crucible.  I think he would give a really dynamic and engaging performance, playing this role either on stage on or screen.

So what do you think of my choices?  And do you have any ideas for the ones I asked about?  Comment and let me know!

The One Lovely Blog Award #2

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I was nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by the lovely Bibliofiles13 – thank you!  Go check out their blog if you haven’t already, their book reviews are great.

The Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog.
  • Add the One Lovely Blog Award logo to your post.
  • Share 7 things about yourself.
  • Pass this on to as many people as you like (max 15).
  • Include this set of rules.
  • Inform your nominees.

7 Facts About Me

1. I have a freakishly good memory… I read this exchange from JK Rowling’s The Silkworm last night and sent it to three of my friends who all replied immediately being like ‘that is literally you though.’  (Nothing spoilery in this dialogue.)

“Go on,” said Culpepper noncommittally.
“You’ve got a cousin called Nina who works for Roper Chard–”
“How the hell do you know that?”
“You told me,” said Strike patiently.
“When?”
“Few months ago when I was investigating that dodgy dentist for you.”
“Your fucking memory,” said Culpepper, sounding less impressed than unnerved.  “It’s not normal.  What about her?”

2. I try to set a TBR each month but I’m such a mood reader at heart.  I definitely believe that ‘this came to me at the right/wrong time’ is a very valid experience to have with any given book.

3. I’m currently making an effort to use Twitter more often, so feel free to follow me @paceamoregelato for hopefully bookish things as well as pictures of my cats and me complaining about seasonal allergies.

4. I went to Tulane University in New Orleans but I never had to evacuate for a hurricane.  The only #hurrication that happened those four years was in the fall when I was abroad.

5. At my last count I think I’ve met either 21 or 22 online friends in real life.

6. I swear a lot… a lot, a lot, a lot, so I’m actually proud of the fact that my blog has managed to not be terribly profane so far.

7. The only cars I’ve ever owned have been stick shifts.  The few times I’ve driven automatics, I always forget to put them in park (why is that a thing?!) and then have a momentary panic when they don’t start.

I nominate:

Chelsea / Steph / Hadeer

Charlotte / Ann / Kristin

Though I will obviously not be offended if you skip it.

Have a good day, friends!