We’ve reached the end of January – how are you doing, friends? I hope the year kicked off without a hitch for you, but if the opposite is true, I hope you’re ready to take on February with optimism and fresh plans.
I feel quite serene at the close of this month, mostly because I spent last weekend up at camp and have enjoyed everything I read over the past 31 days. This wrap-up is not entirely about my reading, but I’ve written that part first in case that’s why you’re here. And if you’re interested, I’ve included some other thoughts about the month below.
Books I Read
Six books – two of which are works of poetry and two others that have over 500 pages – and one story. Besides the poetry collections, the books I read are works of fiction.
1. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie – I like that my library has a decent selection of Agatha Christie novels, because picking a random title from their shelves is part of the Agatha Christie fun – and this is how I made Death on the Nile my next AC pick. I’m also aware that Kenneth Branagh is directing the new movie adaptation slotted for next year, and while his rendition of Hercule Poirot is not my favorite, I thought his direction for Murder on the Orient Express was quite effective (so I’m looking forward to watching his version of Death on the Nile).
Anyway, I was surprised at how similar Death on the Nile (published in 1937) felt to Murder on the Orient Express (published in 1934): a group of people stuck on one transportation vessel, everyone being interviewed separately by Hercule Poirot, and evidence showing up in different places. These similarities sort of dimmed the excitement of Death on the Nile, however, Agatha Christie’s cleverness and writing style kept me hooked until the end. There’s plenty of action, murder, love, and scandal to be found among the pages.
2. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson – I stayed up well into early morning hours to finish this, because my angst was so severe. The Well of Ascension is book #2 in the Mistborn trilogy, and wow is it slow-going. I just mentioned my severe angst, which I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt for an entire book, not to mention an almost 600 page book. During my reading of some reviews, I discovered I am not alone in feeling like this book would never end, however, as I look back on what I read I came to an interesting (to me) conclusion.
This is a spectacular book, and a spectacular sequel. The entire plot is a siege (if you are unaware of this term, it describes a military operation in which enemy forces surround a city, building, etc. and cut off supplies in hopes that the people inside will surrender) – which means there is a lot of conversation and strategic debate, and not a whole lot of action. I’m incredibly interested in how Brandon Sanderson pieced this book together – sure, there were many slow-paced chapters and stretches. But I think that making a reader feel angst and distressing anticipation alongside the characters can be a difficult thing to successfully pull off, but he certainly did that. I’m not entirely sure this will make sense to anyone but me, but this was a great example of how including every part of a book and its creation into the analysis of the story’s details ultimately makes for a great reading experience.
3. The Little French Bistro/The Little Breton Bistro by Nina George – This book has been sitting unread on my shelves for quite some time, and I knew I would eventually get to it because I so enjoyed Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop. I suggested it to my FB book club group (back in November, I believe), and it was selected!
This novel blew me away. There were laughs, so many tears (and some sobs), heartache, swooning, and general delight; how do you do it, Nina George? I am in love with the way she writes relationships – between lovers, friends, acquaintances, etc. – and how she describes the places in which her characters reside and visit. There is so much under the surface, and even as a 26 year old reading characters 60 years of age and older, I had no trouble connecting with and feeling for the people in this book. My fingers are in danger of flying away in a typing torrent of blabber about The Little French Bistro, so will leave it at that.
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4. The Poems of Marianne Moore – I picked up this anthology because I love Marianne Moore’s poem “Poetry”, and read every poem inside. Unfortunately, I was mildly disappointed; Marianne Moore’s general style and topics just aren’t for me (choppy, religion). However, I have walked away with a couple of her poems that I did enjoy and wrote down in my poetry notebook. They are: “A Red Flower”, “Qui Se’Excuse, S’Accuse”, “Like Bertram Dobell, You Achieve Distinction by Disclaiming It”, “Man’s Feet Are A Sensational Device”, “We All Know It”, “‘The Bricks Are Fallen Down, We Will Build With Hewn Stones. The Sycamores Are Cut Down, We Will Change to Cedars.'”, and “Values In Use”.
5. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins – I finally moved this book from my TBR pile to my READ pile, and I may just start The Woman in White in February because I’m excited to read more Wilkie Collins.
The Moonstone is considered to be the first detective novel, and as I haven’t read very many detective novels, I really could only draw parallels between Wilkie Collins and Agatha Christie. What a joy it was to pick up on some details that reminded me of Christie’s work – one of my favorite things about reading the Classics is their influence on writers writing in the same time period as well as others who have come after. Wilkie Collins’ novel is rife with character development and web spinning, which works with the simple mystery; the story isn’t overly complicated but it definitely requires your attention. Racism and misogyny are at 19th-century British levels, and Wilkie Collins uses them as devices to not only forward the story but make statements about the ugliness of Imperialism and irrationality of men being superior beings. I’m working on a discussion post for this book, so that’s all I will say about it now. Overall, I did enjoy The Moonstone.
6. New and Selected Poems, Volume One by Mary Oliver – I read Mary Oliver’s essay collection Upstream in December and fell in love with her writing. As fans of hers know, she passed away just a couple of weeks ago, and she left behind a profound writing legacy. I inhaled this poetry collection; if I had read her work sooner I may not have gone on for so long thinking I hated poetry. Some of my favorites (I feel a level of love for all of them, honestly) include “The Journey”, “Five A.M. in the Pinewoods”, “Sunrise”, “First Snow”, and “Skunk Cabbage”.
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7. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll – Disclaimer: I have a Barnes and Noble Collectible Edition which has both this story and “Through the Looking Glass”, so I technically haven’t finished the book.
This was my first reading of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” and while I was aware of some of the differences between the original story and Disney’s 1951 animated version (the only one I’ve seen), one of the last parts – with the turtle and the gryphon – was a complete surprise to me. At least I don’t remember it being in the movie. Anyway, variances aside, I did enjoy the original story, although MAN is Alice obnoxious and daft. Am I being too hard on a seven year old? No. I would like to know more about Alice’s sister; if you know of any books based on the sister I would be very interested in reading them. I have started “Through the Looking Glass”, which I’ll talk about in February’s Wrap-Up.
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This marks a great reading month for me, especially since I got through two books over 500 pages. Numbers 1, 2, 4, and 6 are library books, and all are physical copies.
Next month, I will be reading all ebooks (or maybe “primarily reading ebooks” is the better phrasing, since I’m always up for switching around my immediate TBR!), because I have a few books to review from NetGalley and direct requests that I cannot put off any longer (don’t worry, I’m excited about them!). So look for more reviews next month I say, like I posted any reviews this month.
From Your Bookshelf
My new feature kicked off this month, and I’ve said it one thousand times already but thank you to Elizabeth from beforewegoblog for sharing your story about Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut. It was the perfect way to inaugurate From Your Bookshelf, and I’m happy to say that February’s post has been drafted and scheduled. If you don’t know about this series, and/or would consider participating, read the introductory post here.
In Other News…
I was not successful in posting consistently here on the blog, but while I wasn’t writing posts or planning content I was focusing on other parts of my life that I have been neglecting. And let me tell you, it felt great to neglect my blog duties. I feel refreshed and more in control, and since I was able to organize and align other important things, I’m ready to take on February – in whatever way I see fit. I may plan another weekend away at camp because it felt so good to be unplugged and away for two days. I don’t typically go up there in the winter because it’s more grueling – no running water, a wood stove for heat (I’m too scared to run the propane heater), and colder temperatures – but the woods is certainly my favorite place to be.
Anyway, thank you for reading, liking, commenting, and conversing with me this month. Let me know some of your highlights, and be sure to share your thoughts about any of the books I read this month in a comment below. See you in February!
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