I apologize in advance: this is a bit of a rambly review because I'm rather overtired and it's really hard to collect my thoughts regarding this book.
I bought Jo Walton's Among Others when I was out of town. I have never read anything by Walton before, but I was intrigued by the premise of Among Others. The fact that it also won both a Hugo and a Nebula really helped my decision to buy it, too. The back of the book makes it sound like it's going to be a really fun, magical adventure, with fairies and magic and magical battles.
While it is true that there are fairies and magic and magical battles, Among Others never really did seem to deliver on the "fun" part that I was looking forward to.
Among Others follows Morwenna Phelps. She has run away from her old life to her father, who she doesn't really know. Her father lives with his three sisters, who end up sending her to an English boarding school. Mori's mother had tried to bend the faeries to her dark will, which resulted in a magical battle that left Mori's twin sister dead and Mori crippled. That's why she ran away from Wales.
We never get to read the actual details of this magical battle. We just get little bits and pieces of it in Mori's journal (which is how the entire novel is told - through her journal). What we do get is an exhaustive list of all the science fiction books Mori reads (and how almost every one of them are "brill"). Because Mori is crippled, she spends most of her time reading. Someone on Goodreads was kind enough to put together this list of books mentioned in Among Others (which is about as long as the books I currently have on The List). Needless to say, there are a lot of books mentioned, most of which I have never read.
Mori starts receiving letters from her mother, which burn with evil intent (and magic). In a bit of desperation, she works some protective magic against her, while also wishing for a karass (which basically was her group of similar-minded people). The next day she finds a science fiction book group, which includes the very beautiful Wim. She finds herself attracted to him, but worries for a large part of the book that Wim's attraction to her is only thanks to the magic she enacted.
Mori also sees fairies, as the premise promised. But they are very alien beings who do not speak or act the way Mori wishes they would (aka the way they do in her stories). When she was younger, she used to play with the fairies with her sister. From time to time the fairies would ask the twins to do things for them because the fairies cannot influence the physical world. As Mori has aged, the fairies still ask things of her, and she rushes to help them (especially when it involves stopping her mother's plans). But most of the fairies she sees are in England, who are not at all interested in talking to her. Only when she's in Wales and able to speak to the ones she knows well (specifically the one she called Glorfindel - fairies don't have names, so she and her sister named him) do we get a really good sense of what they're like (or what her childhood was like).
I'd like to mention, she had a moment where she almost passed onto the next life, but Glorifindel stopped her by reminding her that she was only half finished her book. She literally decided to stay to finish the book (and keep reading others).
And that's as good a spot as any to bring me to the weirdness of this book. As many reviewers on Goodreads have said, this book takes place after the climax of the story. Mori is having to move on with her life after the epic battle where she saved the world, but lost her sister in the process. It's a very odd place for a story to start (almost everyone tells you to start in the middle - I've never heard of anyone starting once it was over, so to speak).
As I already mentioned, Among Others is told through Mori's journal. It took me a bit to pick up on this originally (I thought the dates were just day markers denoting chapter changes at first; but near the beginning they skip ahead and she says she didn't have much time to write in there. That's when I clued in). It gave Mori a very strong sense of voice, but also made the book rather tedious in the middle. Not only that, it made the end of the book quite abrupt. In the last twenty pages of the book, her mother finally shows up and they battle again. This is explained after the fact and really, really glossed over by Mori; in many ways the book just sort of ends. It was weird.
While it's an interesting premise (and very clearly a love letter to science fiction, libraries, and the interlibrary loan system), I felt that the book's story was rather bogged down. I wonder if I would feel that way though if I had read more of the books on her list? It's really hard to say.
So all in all, I really liked Mori. But this was a very odd book in many, many ways. I had a hard time rating it on Goodreads as a result.
After reading The Lovely Bones, I wanted something that was not depressing so I started reading Island: How Islands Transform the World by J. Edward Chamberlin. My thought was that a nonfiction book should be the opposite of depressing. Unfortunately I was having a really hard time reading it; I would get twenty pages in and have to stop. After this happened the second night, I reached over to my shelf and grabbed The Handmaid's Tale. And read 90 pages in one sitting! Now make no mistake, from looking for a non-depressing book, The Handmaid's Tale was not a great choice. It tells the story of Offred, a woman of the Gilean Republic. Gilead is what became of the United States after some disasters destabilized the world. Part of the disasters is that many people (men I think?) have become sterile. So women of childbearing age have become handmaidens, or women who are present only in the hopes that they will get pregnant. There's a very clear household hierarchy, where the man's wife is ruler of the household; the wives only tolerate the presence of the handmaidens because they can no longer conceive themselves but they want babies. (I got the feeling that the wives in question were too old to be bearing children). So Offred goes about her life, explaining what it has become but also remembering what it was like before, when she had her own name, and lived in the United States with her husband, daughter, and cat and was able to see her best friend Moira. I really liked the juxtaposition between the two stories, particularly in the beginning. The beginning of the novel was so good. Unfortunately I felt like it started to fall apart a bit as it progressed because the plot isn't really that interesting. Offred's Commander starts inviting her into his rooms at night to play Scrabble (so illegal on many levels - he should not be alone with her, and she should not be using reading skills). He eventually invites her out to the Commander's "club" (it's very much one of those types of clubs with women everywhere in weird/skimpy costumes). There she is reunited with Moira for the evening. After that, the Wife has set her up to have sex with their hired hand Nick because the Wife really, really wants that baby. Offred starts having an ongoing affair with Nick, risking everything and also losing interest in a lot of the other aspects of her life (this was probably around when the story felt boring to me, plot-wise). Eventually she is whisked away, whether to a horrible fate or to freedom, we are not made to know. Except that we know something: the end of the book has a lecture from the future, where professors have uncovered her story, which was left on cassette tapes. So she at least got away long enough to tell her story to someone (and to have it recorded). I thought the lecture was a really neat touch to end the book with. The Handmaid's Tale really felt like something I should have read while I was in school (particularly in University). It's one of only two stories I've read so far by Margaret Atwood (the other two being "Bluebeard's Egg" and The Edible Woman). It feels oddly topical right now, with what is going on in the United States. It's an interesting story with some major flaws in its execution (as one reviewer pointed out on Goodreads, the setting makes no sense because the United States wouldn't go from the way it is today into a weird oppressive society in like a year's time). I think it was very much worth reading, but it is by no means a favourite book of mine.
A friend at work lent me Face2Face by David Lee King after we attended one of his social media webinars last fall. I've been reading it a little at a time over the last few months and finally finished it a few minutes ago.
Face2Face details how to start listening to and engaging with your customers on social media. It's a really easy-to-read book that is packed full of great advice to get you started. I liked how it really had something for everyone in every chapter, whether you're new to social media or a seasoned pro. Face2Face is written in everyday language so you're never really lost in jargon. While a bit dated (as any book on the internet and specific websites tends to be), I thought it was still highly relevant to the social media of today. I'm now looking forward to reading Designing the Digital Experience, a second book by David Lee King that my same friend lent to me.
I've had Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones for a really long time. I think I bought it just before the movie came out (which was 2009) because I'd heard the book was good and wanted to read it first. I don't remember what exactly I was up to (but school...) but I do remember lending it to my mom to read with the intention of reading it soon after. That clearly didn't happen since it's now 2017 and I finally got around to reading it now. Unfortunately my mom doesn't really remember the book at all, so we weren't really able to talk about it. :/
The Lovely Bones opens with Suzie Salmon, our narrator, telling us about her death. And wow is that a difficult chapter to read. I don't know what exactly I was expecting, but not the rape of a fourteen-year old in a lot of detail. She tells us that she is killed at the end of that, but that wasn't in any detail (until later when authorities tell her family they found her elbow- she was clearly gruesomely hacked to pieces).
I remember finishing that chapter being unsure of whether i would continue. But I did, making it through a few more chapters before going out for the evening. And not coming back to the book for most of the week because it was hard to convince myself to keep reading).
The Lovely Bones is about Suzie's family struggling to deal with her murder, which remains unsolved (other than her father's unshakable conviction that he knows who the killer is - he just can't prove it). Her sister Lindsey must deal with everyone looking at her and seeing her dead sister. Her brother Buckley is too young so no one wants to tell him that Suzie isn't coming back. Her mother, who never really wanted children, cannot deal with Suzie's loss and slowly slips away from the family, while Suzie's grandmother, who was always an independent and apart woman, comes closer, becoming an integral part of the family. Ray, Suzie's crush and first kiss, must deal with the authorities blaming him (even though he is innocent). And Ruth, a girl from school, saw Suzie's spirit fleeing the night she was killed; Ruth sounds crazy when she tells anyone about this.
Once you get past Suzie's gruesome murder, The Lovely Bones is an excellent story about a family dealing with terrible grief, and how that grief can either pull them together or push them apart. I actually liked how different people were either pulled or pushed. But Suzie's rape and gruesome murder is very, very hard to get past (especially since Suzie does keep watch over her murderer quite a bit, too). This is by no means a "fun" book to read, and I honestly don't think I would recommend it to anyone.
*As of September 24/15, I am not taking any more requests from authors to read their books. I currently have too many books to read. I'll update this if/when that changes.*
I currently have 164 fiction books just sitting in my room to read (although that doesn't stop me from randomly picking books up at work or buying them on Kindle!). I've been keeping track of them on a paper list for years. This blog shares what I read as I attempt to get "the List" down to a more manageable number.
If you'd like to know what books are on the List, check out my Goodreads shelf devoted to them - it's my physical list digitized! I've also got a shelf for every book I've reviewed here on this blog.
Not everything I review here is actually on the List. Some books come from the library, some books are nonfiction (which are not included on the List), some books are on my Kindle (which have never been included on the List), and some books are given to me by friends and family.
Note: as of April 12/14, I am not going to add the *spoiler* warning I used to when I'm giving away details of books. I want to talk about the books I've read in whatever detail I'd like. So if you haven't read a book I'm reviewing, you might not want to read the review.