This year, as part of an effort to revive my old bookworm self, I joined the Goodreads Challenge and pledged to read at least fifty books by the end of the year. As you can probably imagine, I am woefully behind on my reading. I thought blogging about each month’s reads would keep on the straight and narrow (bookishly speaking, at least) and so here I am.
I’m also three books behind on my goal to read four books a month for the month of June, but that’s neither here nor there.
1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I really don’t need to be writing a review of Lolita. After all, it’s a classic, and for a reason! But I need to talk about my perception of the story, particularly when compared to how I looked at it when I was younger.
I was thirteen or fourteen years old when I saw the 1997 film adaptation of the book starring Jeremy Irons (who I may or may not have had an inappropriate crush on at the time). Looking back, I realized how I had romanticized Humbert’s depravity and thought that we he and Lolita had was a tragic love affair, rather than a pedophile preying on a young girl far too susceptible to charm and flattery. I reread the book when I found an old copy while doing some spring cleaning and found myself disgusted and sickened. Humbert is an unreliable narrator, sniveling and self-piteous, excusing his behavior by telling the reader that Lolita seduced him.
Basically my point is, it really made me realize how vulnerable young girls are to this sort of justification, when I compare my awareness now of Humbert’s behavior to my feelings on the subject when I saw the movie years ago.
2. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
I finally, finally, finally got my hands on the last book of the Peculiar trilogy by Ransom Riggs last May. I know, I know – I’m such a bad fan. It had been published months ago and I only just read it. In my defense though, I was very busy with work and school. At any rate, once the trailer went out, I knew I had to finish the trilogy.
I’ll be writing a review on the Peculiar trilogy as a whole soon, so I won’t talk too much about Library of Souls. Suffice it to say, it was a good, solid closing to the story, and while I would have much preferred a sadder ending (spoiler alert: true love reigns supreme *deep sigh*) I acknowledge that that’s my own preference.
3. Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery
I’m absolutely in love with Muriel Barbery’s first book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog. The gravity of the latter book is immense, as it deals with philosophy, art, history, poetry, and the appreciation of such. Gourmet Rhapsody is an easier book to get through, but that doesn’t mean it’s a light read. In it, Pierre Arthens, a renowned food critic, is dying, and so is “…desperately searching for that singular flavor, that sublime something once sampled, never forgotten, the Flavor par excellence.”
The character trope that Pierre Arthens fits into – a great artist who is a failure as a human being – is nothing new. But Muriel Barbery puts a new spin on the old tale, taking the reader on a journey through Arthens’ boyhood by describing particularly memorable meals he’s had throughout his life.
For me, I felt like it didn’t meet the standards set by The Elegance of the Hedgehog, but it was a near thing, and an enjoyable, thought-provoking book nonetheless.
Protip? Don’t read this while hungry.
4. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Ah, this book. I’m so conflicted about this book.
One the one hand, I loved the premise of the main character. Diana Bishop is a scholar at Oxford who also happens to be a witch, but who has turned her back on her supernatural inheritance. At the start of the book she comes across as strong, independent, and smart. I also loved how casually the author mentions that Diana’s aunt is a lesbian. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I have a soft spot for books wherein a character being LGBT+ is no big deal – it’s a characteristic like any other, like hair color or height.
Several chapters in, however, and I began to see shades of Twilight. At first, it doesn’t seem so. Matthew, Diana’s suitor, is a vampire searching for an enchanted book which holds secrets to the beginnings of the species that exist in this universe: humans, witches, vampires, and demons. Sounds like a slightly more cerebral take on the usual YA fare, doesn’t it? Nope. Matthew’s just as much of a creepy, stalkery dick as Edward Cullen. This is the best description of the romance between Matthew and Diana that I’ve found. Be warned though, it’s a bit spoilery.
And Diana. Good God, don’t get me started on her. At first, I really liked her character. I could see hints of a grown-up Hermione Granger – a professorial, bookish, practical woman. But at the first sight of broad shoulders and a charming smile, she’s suddenly swooning and thinking in poetic hyperboles, all wimpy and pathetic. It’s enough to make anyone vomit.
I’m still ambivalent about whether or not I’ll be reading the sequel. The storyline itself was interesting, to be fair. It involved DNA, chemistry, and history, and although some of the more scientific stuff wasn’t properly explained, the premise was still intriguing. I just felt the execution was lacking.
5. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
I’ve already written a review about this book! Find it here.