Monday, February 3, 2014

Monthly Reading List: January

Okay, new thing! I've decided that since I've started visiting the library regularly again, I will start keeping track of the books I read each month, and at the beginning of each month, I'll post a list of the previous month's books and quick reviews on each! Enjoy!

January

Split Second- David Baldacci
This is the first book in Baldacci's "King and Maxwell" series. Baldacci is a well-known name in fiction, like Clancy, Patterson, or Grisham, but I never thought I'd get a taste for his books. Then my sister shared an audiobook of a sequel in this series (called Simple Genius) and I was hooked—namely because we hadn't finished it and I wanted to know what happens! I am now working through this series. Split Second was great. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are wonderful characters—and the villain is one disturbed individual. I followed the characters after every red herring and down every dead end right to the big reveal.

Austenland
- Shannon Hale
Shannon Hale is one of my favorite juvenile fiction authors. She knows how to give her readers the "warmfuzzies." Austenland is a suitably fluffy book, if a bit more adult in content than her other books. It's one of those that has you rolling your eyes at the unabashedly ridiculous characters (a cast as colorful as an Austen novel) and softly smiling at yourself as you read the conclusion and set it aside.

Beautiful Darkness- Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
I'll admit, I'm not usually swayed into the realm of teen witches and darkness, and this series is definitely out of the ordinary, but this is the sequel to the book Beautiful Creatures and I can't help the title, okay? And as for the witchy part of it—it's all a part of fiction, and completely made up; I have no qualms with that understanding, and no issue with keeping the real world distinct from the fictional one. I ignore it. Instead, I watch the characters. They're not sappy and smutty like SOO many supernatural romances out there. (Like the draw of supernatural teens is an excuse for the author to use adult-level steam... Yeah right!) They're actual teenagers just trying to figure out how they fit in their respective families. Granted, I didn't like this book as much as the first one (and I probably wouldn't recommend it unless you've got a strong filter) but the style of writing, the characterization, and the descriptions are all masterfully done and, indeed, beautiful. I'm probably going to skip the next book, Beautiful Chaos (don't need to know just how bad it's going to get, thank you), and go right on to the last book, Beautiful Redemption.

Code Name Verity- Elizabeth Wein
This being another Young Adult novel with a highly-suggestive-without-actually-communicating-anything image on the cover (two hands clasped and bound with twine; what's that all about?? I wondered) I saw it over and over again at the library before a friend recommended it and assured me that it was NOT SMUT. So I read it.
At first it was entertaining. A captured Scottish flight officer (a fiery young woman who repeatedly maintains she is NOT BRITISH) having a field day with the distasteful task of spilling all her countries secrets on paper for her German captors, in return for her life. She's a snarky young thing giving the Germans a run for their money as she unloads story after story onto the paper. One can almost smell the cigarettes, hear the screams of other prisoners, see the cold grey walls of that little room.... What an amazing story!
The Kinsey Millhone Series-Sue Grafton
A is for Alibi
B is for Burglar
C is for Corpse 
Hey, if Baldacci, why not Grafton? This series has always intrigued me: did someone really write an entire series with a book for each letter of the alphabet? Even the impossible ones like Q and X?? (Q exists, but X is forthcoming... The most recent novel is W, so there's a chance she might end up skipping right to Y... But that's still very impressive!) By now I'm about halfway through D—and I just might make it through the whole series without issue! There is some adult content—but it's neither surprising nor garish. These are adult characters in novels that adults read. Sue Grafton chooses her themes (the central plot device for each letter: Alibi, Burglary, Corpse, and so on) with tact and careful management, producing mysteries that confound and confuse till quite literally the last chapter.

Lord Peter Wimsey
-Dorothy Sayers
I was bemoaning my Sherlock withdrawals and the loss of dear Hercule Poirot, when a friend (the same one who recommended Code Name Verity) told me about her favorite detective: the unquenchable Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey. (Yes, that's his name; fascinating, no?) so I began hunting down the elusive author Dorothy Sayers. This particular book I'd had on hold for about four months, just waiting for it to become available—that's how rare it is, at least in my library system. This particular publication is rather like the Sherlock stories, short installments compiled into one anthology. Lord Peter is a highly entertaining character, suitable for all ages! I confess the mysteries were not quite as intriguing as I was becoming used to, because there were lots of times when a clue was given, but the reader could not grasp the significance of it because we did not know the relevant piece of trivia Lord Peter could conjure at a moment's notice. But the adventures were nothing if not whimsical, to say the least!

The Sisters Grimm-Michael Buckley
I am only a few books shy of finishing this series, I believe. Can't say it really aligned with my expectations, though. It's a fascinating concept, sort of a "Once-Upon-A-Time-meets-Grimm-for-kids" kind of a premise. The author is brazen in his use of the fairytale characters, and seems to rely heavily on the "gross" factor that so many adults believe kids find so entertaining (too many, in my opinion). The consistent characterization of the sisters that are the main characters is the older girl with anger issues and the younger one who knows and believes the stories, making her the one who can keep track of what is going on. A story arc so unbalanced it comes across rather blasé.
So there are the books I read in January... I currently have a stack of eight books on my nightstand for this month... so stay tuned!