mini reviews #2: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s nonfiction & various classics

Still making my way through my backlog of Goodreads mini reviews to transfer over to WordPress – if you missed my first installment of mini reviews you can check that out here!  Here’s the next round:

22738563WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
★★★☆☆
date read: April 5, 2018
Vintage, 2014

A really great introduction to feminism which would have been very valuable to me a decade ago. As it stands, I didn’t take a whole lot away from this, or even see familiar points articulated in novel ways… but I’m not the target audience. This is an important book to gift to your friends and relatives who still think ‘feminist’ is a dirty word.

33585392DEAR IJEAWELE, OR A FEMINIST MANIFESTO IN FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
★★★☆☆
date read: April 28, 2018
Knopf, 2017

Between this and We Should All Be Feminists I don’t think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s nonfiction is for me, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have merit. I just didn’t get anything out of either of these essays that I haven’t already seen articulated by others in more thorough and nuanced ways. And once again, as with We Should All Be Feminists, I was disappointed with the lack of inclusion toward the LGBT community. But I did enjoy the particular insights into Nigerian and Igbo culture, and there’s a lot to be said about the brevity with which she is able to articulate her points, which makes this an accessible starting point for anyone unfamiliar with feminist theory.

6473195THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE by Agatha Christie
★★★★☆
date read: March 30, 2018
William Morrow, 2009, originally published in 1930

Yet again Christie manages to craft a mystery so intricate it’s all you can do to keep up, never mind get ahead of her. 4 stars instead of 5 as it took me ages to get invested in these characters for whatever reason, and because I got tired of Clement remarking upon how clever Miss Marple is (we get it). But the resolution was fantastic and I thought the humor in this one in particular was great.

92517THE GLASS MENAGERIE by Tennessee Williams
★★★★★
date read: January 21, 2018
originally published in 1945

Thoughtful, entrancing, achingly sad. Worth reading the script even if you’ve already seen the play live (I have not) because the detail in Williams’ stage directions is so vivid.

 

 

50398NORTHANGER ABBEY by Jane Austen
★★☆☆☆
date read: December 29, 2017
originally published in 1818

This was the single most inoffensive reading experience of my life. I didn’t like this book. I didn’t dislike this book. I have no opinion on this book and I have absolutely nothing else to say.

Side note: this was my first Jane Austen (not counting the first couple of chapters of Pride and Prejudice that I tried reading when I was 13 before getting bored), and I’m aware that it’s widely regarded as one of her weaker novels, so I’m not letting it put me off Austen for good.  The one that appeals to me the most is Mansfield Park so I’ll probably read that next, though I have no idea when that will be.

Feel free to comment if you’d like to talk about any of these in more detail!

top 5 tuesday: New to Me Authors in 2017

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

DECEMBER 12TH – Top 5 (OR 10!) new to me authors in 2017

I wasn’t initially going to do this topic since it slipped my mind this week, but I was #blessed with a snow day today and have nothing better to do, so why not!

I could easily do 10, but I think I like the challenge of narrowing it down to 5.

123715Agatha Christie.  It’s hard to believe I only read And Then There Were None earlier this year – I feel like I’ve been reading Christie for so much longer.  Since then I’ve read five more Christie novels – Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Three Act Tragedy, Sparkling Cyanide, and Crooked House – and none of them has received less than a 4 star rating from me.  I’m not even a little bit tired of her books, and I can’t wait to read even more in 2018.

7195John Boyne.  I know, I won’t shut up about John Boyne, but I just think he’s brilliant.  I’ve only read two of his books so far – The Heart’s Invisible Furies and The Absolutist, and no, I’ve never read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – but both of them ripped my heart out, which, if you know me, is something I particularly enjoy.  He also published this fantastic Guardian article today about why women are better writers than men which is worth checking out, particularly if you hate Jonathan Franzen.

Also this was the single most iconic moment of 2017:

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recp_vsv_400x400Lisa McInerney.  Another Irish writer I discovered this year, when I read her genius debut The Glorious Heresies.  This book knocked the wind out of me in the best possible way.  McInerney provides a really brilliant exploration of crime and poverty in contemporary Ireland – her novel is is moving and profane and challenging and utterly fearless.  I’ve never read anything like it.  And her character Ryan Cusack still haunts me.  I can’t wait to hopefully read the sequel, The Blood Miracles, next year.

38185Mary Renault.  I’ve only read one Renault novel so far, Fire From Heaven, and it took me the better part of three months, so that probably doesn’t sound like the biggest endorsement ever.  But it’s one of those books that’s completely worth the effort that you need to put into it.  Renault’s research into the life of Alexander the Great is absolutely impeccable, and I have so much admiration for her as a writer and historian.  I didn’t want to rush straight into The Persian Boy, the next book in her Alexander trilogy, but I really look forward to getting around to it in 2018.

3p216vdmMin Jin Lee.  I haven’t stopped talking about Pachinko since I read it very early this year, but that’s only because that book ripped my heart out and positively haunted me.  I still find myself thinking about that novel and its characters – and since I’ve read about 90 books since then, that’s a pretty big accomplishment.  I haven’t gone back and read Lee’s debut yet, but I intend to, and I will definitely pick up anything she publishes in the future.

Honorable mentions to: Donal Ryan, Leigh Bardugo, M.L. Rio, Caite Dolan-Leach, Mira T. Lee, Josh Malerman, Maggie Stiefvater, Edward St. Aubyn, Kanae Minato, David Mitchell, Mohsin Hamid, David Vann, and Brian Friel.  And probably others.

Who’s your favorite author that you discovered in 2017?  Comment and let me know!

book review: Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie

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SPARKLING CYANIDE by Agatha Christie
★★★★★
originally published in 1944

Sparkling Cyanide was my fifth Agatha Christie, and my fifth time being absolutely blown away by how well crafted her mysteries are. The novel begins with Iris Marle looking back on a dinner party which had resulted in the death of her sister Rosemary, whose champagne had been poisoned with cyanide. Though it had been initially ruled as a suicide, Rosemary’s husband, George, becomes convinced that Rosemary had been murdered – which means the culprit was necessarily one of the six guests in attendance that night.

Interestingly, the question of who could possibly have poisoned beautiful, well-liked, friendly Rosemary is quickly answered – it turns out that each of the guests in turn had their own motive. So instead the question becomes: who actually did it? It was refreshing that Christie’s approach here was to rule out several potential culprits, rather than spending the majority of the novel searching for motive.

As always with Christie, I found myself doubting my predictions at every twist and turn. The person I settled on about 65% into the book did end up bring the right one, but I’m still waiting for the day I read one of her books and can choose the murderer early on with a certain amount of confidence. Her plots are too layered and her characters too well-rounded for the kind of easy predictability you get in a lot of contemporary thrillers. As with the other four Christie novels I’ve read, Sparkling Cyanide was a quick, entertaining, clever read that I enjoyed immensely.

top 5 tuesday: Favorite Book Covers

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

OCTOBER 17 – Top 5 favourite book covers

Cheating a bit, but here we go:

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Human Acts by Han Kang: This is one of my all-time favorite cover designs; I love the simple yet eerie imagery and I love the dissonance of the muted yellow.

The William Morrow covers of Agatha Christie‘s novels.  A few faves: And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, Endless NightSparkling Cyanide.  I’m obsessed with this series of covers and I’m slowly working on collecting them all…. I may go broke in the process but I’m having fun with it so far.

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Running by Cara Hoffman.  This was a very strange little novel that I didn’t completely love, but I think the cover design is stunning – I love the Greek statues and the slightly off-tone primary colors.

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The Vegetarian by Han Kang: I genuinely tried to narrow it down and choose only one Han Kang cover, but I love both of them so much.  I love how delightfully creepy this one is, and I love the bold red of the background.

The Kopp Sisters series by Amy Stewart: Girl Waits With Gun, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions.  I love the old fashioned newspaper cover design and the use of bold colors.  And Constance Kopp’s no-nonsense expression in all of these images is pretty great.

What can I say – I’m pretty predictable.  Bold colors + some cool art design + clean font are the way to my heart.

What are some of your favorite book covers?

book review: Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie

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THREE ACT TRAGEDY by Agatha Christie
★★★★☆
originally published in 1934

I’ve been on a bit of an Agatha Christie kick lately. After never having read any of her books, Three Act Tragedy marks the fourth that I’ve read so far in 2017 (following And Then There Were NoneMurder on the Orient Express, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd). So far, none have disappointed.

What I find so remarkable about Agatha Christie is that when I read her books, I never have the slightest clue whodunnit. With contemporary mysteries, I find that early on in the book I always have a guess. It’s not always right, but usually 20-30% into the book I point to one character and say with a certain amount of authority, ‘you, I think it was you.’ I’ve yet to be able to do that with Agatha Christie. I still try to take a guess for the sake of being able to say ‘ha, I knew it’ if it ends up being right, but so far I’m 0 for 4. And my guesses are always tenuous at best – I always end up second guessing myself, because there are just so many moving pieces to her mysteries, which always come together in the most unexpected ways. She has that rare ability to make the reader go ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ while creating plots that are so complex there’s almost no way the reader is ever going to figure it out. But you still don’t feel tricked, at the end, because it makes too much sense. There’s such a distinct sort of satisfaction that comes from watching Christie work her magic.

Three Act Tragedy starts with a dinner party thrown by Sir Charles Cartwright, where thirteen guests attend and by the end of the night, one ends up dead. It turns out the victim was just the first in a series of murders that are to unfold over the upcoming months, a mystery that the characters attempt to solve, aided by famous detective Hercule Poirot.

Of the Christie novels I’ve read so far, Three Act Tragedy is the most focused on individual psychology, and how that factors into the crime in question. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that I was impressed by the motive that Christie devised for the murders, as well as the the way she examined the biases which prevented each of the characters who were investigating the case from solving it sooner.

This wasn’t quite as good as And Then There Were NoneMurder on the Orient Express, or The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – there’s a reason those are three of her most famous works – but still thoroughly enjoyable and shocking.

I also bought this copy in The Mysterious Bookshop in New York, which is worth a visit for all mystery/thriller fans!