Thursday, February 18, 2016

Quick Lit • February 2016

My to-be-read list has exploded over the past couple months, which gives me a certain sense of security.  There is, quite literally, nothing as satisfying to me as (1) knowing what I will read next, and (2) having my next vacation already planned.  Well, those things and whether I have a nice selection of teas in the kitchen.

And having a stash of good quality chocolate (this is starting to make me sound much more high-maintenance than I like to think of myself).

The Books on the Nightstand podcast, and Anne Bogle's new podcast What Should I Read Next? have introduced me to a ton of new titles, and I recently relaxed some of my spending freezes to allow for more book purchases (life is short, and books are worth it).  It was on one of the WSIRN podcasts that a guest mentioned the Book Passage book subscription club, and when I saw that two of my favorite books of last year were on it, plus another two of my favorites from 2014 were on the previous year's list, I began reading my way through the rest of their back catalog.  The choices have so far been splendid.

Today, I am linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share short, snippet-like reviews of the books I have read over the past month.  

Set in the 1930s, Euphoria is a novel about the intersecting lives of three young anthropologists who have settled in among isolated, unstudied tribes in New Guinea. Inspired by events that took place during three months in the life of Margaret Mead, the action focuses on the work of the married couple Nell and Fen at the time they station themselves near Bankson, an anthropologist who has been alone for a few years and who has lost hope in his ability to make a mark in his field. The tale is told through the POV of two of the characters as events occur, but also through flashbacks from one and journal entries from another. This structure builds exquisite tension, and the book is a quick, beautiful read. 

The Unfortunate Events series is captivating and great fun as a family read-aloud. The Reptile Room, continuing the story of the three orphans and the terrible events that befall them at every turn, brings more death and suspense and absurdity and laughter, and is written just as cannily as the first one. My eight-year-old is madly in love with the characters and we had a fabulous time reading this installment. Bonus: the vocabulary and the witticisms provide much fodder for discussion.

A young adult novel that is set in Nazi Germany and is narrated by death himself may seem particularly dismal, but The Book Thief manages to be both luminous and dark, both serious and light-hearted. At 552 pages, and taking place over about five years, the book traces the story of a young girl who is sent to live with a foster family in a poor neighborhood in a terrifying time in history. Forged relationships are a powerful force in the novel, as are stolen books, and the constant and overwhelming presence of a tyrannical government. The language is gorgeous, and there were sentences constructed so beautifully that I wanted to tuck them away in my memory forever. 

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist takes place during the 1999 WTO riots in Seattle. The novel alternately takes the point of view of the police chief, two radical protestors, a Sri Lankan minister of finance, a couple of over-eager cops, and a young man who finds himself more deeply embroiled in the conflict than he meant to be. The action occurs over the course of only one day, and the tension builds skillfully as the day goes on and as the the chapters skip around between the main characters. I keep hearing comparisons to The Flamethrowers, but Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing is what kept coming to my mind, as the reader helplessly watches the characters each make choices that bring them closer to what you can only imagine will be more explosive than they intend. Both the tension, the prose, and the character development are masterful, though I found the ending to be a little unfulfilling.

This post contains my affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting The Postmodern Planet.

No comments: