The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan

Three and a half to four stars. Read for the first time in 2007, and again in February 2021. Some things Robert Jordan writes too much of: What songs are called in different places where the characters travel People using made-up swear words unbearably earnestly How Aes Sedai can’t be trusted (they never lie, but…

Wrapping Up Summer Reading (Mini Reviews)

The Door, by Magda Szabó Three and a half stars, read in August 2018. The story of a strange, dysfunctional relationship between two strange women who are both uniquely intimate with and completely closed off to each other. I found it difficult at times, how deeply (and pretty frequently) they hurt each other, but the exploration…

Nine Rabbits, by Virginia Zaharieva

Four stars, read in August/September 2018. Practically incomprehensible at times, but at others, perfectly describes situations and emotions I’ve never seen articulated elsewhere. My perception of the protagonist kept changing in surprising ways, and I ended up making a lot of unexpected connections with her. I dream that I’m traveling to a seminar in Varna…

A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism, by Slavenka Drakulić

Three and a half stars, read in August 2018. Though I don’t know what the author’s intent was for her readers, I wish I’d had more background knowledge of how communism and socialism were implemented throughout Central Europe before reading this book. The format—eight fables, each told by an animal from a different country—makes for…

Beware of Pity, by Stefan Zweig

Three and a half stars, read in July and August 2018. This is one of those books in which perfect strangers sit down to tell each other their—or other people’s—life stories. Like Mr. Lockwood in Wuthering Heights, the narrator we first meet turns out to be nothing more than the impetus for one such story, that…

The Storm, by Margriet de Moor

Four stars, read in July 2018. I picked up this book for my first stop on the Reader’s Room Backpacking Across Europe Summer Reading Challenge, as I flew into the Amsterdam airport. I don’t tend to read disaster stories, so I probably wouldn’t have chosen this book if Utah public libraries had a better selection…

Harmless Like You, by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Four stars, read in May 2018. Good book, well-written, poignant, frustrating, a little heartbreaking, with a pretty satisfying conclusion. Emily Woo Zeller is an excellent narrator, but I didn’t care for P.J. Ochlan, who does irritating pseudo-falsetto for female characters’ voices. (Given that I already didn’t like Jay, the character he was narrating, I think…

Storm Front, by Jim Butcher

First read summer 2010, read again summer 2018. Approximately four stars. Oh, Harry Dresden. I still really enjoyed this, but the way I read is so different now from eight years ago, when I first read it—fresh off the heels of N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Becky Chambers, Garth Nix, Rat Queens, Saga, and all the other incredibly…

Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi

Five stars, read in February 2018. Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy. Despite one of the best first lines I’ve ever read, I’m certain I wouldn’t have finished this if I hadn’t read, and been so impressed by, What is Not…

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah, read April 30 – May 1, 2014 I go back and forth between 4 and 5 stars, I think because the ending didn’t have as much of an impact as I was expecting. But then I remember how I basically devoured this book, loving every minute that I was reading, feeling completely absorbed and…

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

Four stars, read in January 2018. For most of the book I was going to give it five stars, but it seems to divide itself into two sections (before her suicide attempt and after), and I felt much more strongly about the first section. I loved it, I related closely to upsetting amounts of it, I…

The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney

Four stars, read in February 2018. I was drawn into this hard, once it got going. The audio narration is excellent, but gives no indications of the physical format—sections that are printed in italics, occasional illuminating “chapter” titles (they’re not really chapters but what do I call them?)—so the book wasn’t really working until I…

The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Four stars, read in June/July 2017. I loved the premise and the atmosphere of the post-Arthurian setting, and found the first half of this book very engaging. It follows characters who live in sort of medieval villages of Britons and Saxons, and although no one seems to remember any specifics, we know it’s been a…

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

Four stars, read from October to November 2017. I decided to read this book right now because of some TV show we were watching recently, and I’m hoping that by the end of this post I’ll be able to remember what it was. A character must have made a reference to the opening lines of…

The Bedlam Stacks, by Natasha Pulley

Five stars, read in September 2017. I’ve never read anyone who writes male characters the way Natasha Pulley does, and it’s irresistible to me. This book took longer to get going, but it’s also more polished than her first book; by the end, I’d fallen in love with Merrick and Raphael nearly as hard as…

The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolaño

Two or three stars, read in August 2017. I was really annoyed about this book. I really wanted to like it, which was probably part of the problem. It took me forever and I pressured myself to finish it, which was certainly part of the problem. I can’t say why exactly, but this book just…

The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Four stars, read in October 2017. The Remains of the Day is absolutely masterful. I was constantly impressed by the subtlety, the way the protagonist’s voice is so careful and forthcoming that it didn’t occur to me to question his accuracy, until suddenly the perspective would widen and I’d realize what he’d been leaving out. Mr….

Jane, Unlimited, by Kristin Cashore

One star, read in October 2017. This did not work for me. Graceling and Bitterblue are two of my all-time favorites, and some of the little YA that I am still able to read, so I was really hopeful for Cashore’s first book outside that series. But, in the first place, I wish I could…

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Two stars, read in September 2017. Will possibly downgrade to one star after I think more about it. This was not an enjoyable experience and upon finishing, I felt like I should apologize to myself for forcing me through the whole thing. One thousand pages of farming, 19th-century Russian politics, and petty, jealous, self-absorbed characters…

That Old Ace in the Hole, by Annie Proulx

Five stars, read in October 2017. I started with this at four stars, planning to bump it up to five if it stuck with me after a couple weeks. Annie Proulx is just . . . a master. How did I just read a book about all the things I find least interesting in the…

Notes on a Harry Potter Reread

These are small posts that come from my old blog, but which I hadn’t previously reposted here, from the last time I reread the Harry Potter series (in 2014). Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone I wish I could remember exactly how many times I’ve read the earlier books in the series; obviously it’s more…

Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy

Three stars, read in May 2017. Oh, Thomas Hardy. Of his books that I’ve read, this is the one with the most blatant commentary on the oppression and arbitrary cruelty of societal conventions. It’s also probably my least favorite, though I’m not sure why; for some reason Jude and Sue never clicked with me as…

Human Acts, by Han Kang

Five stars, read in April 2017. I kept not returning this book to the library because I wanted to go back through and get quotes for this post, but when I tried to do it, I felt like it was too late. This book is much too intense an experience to just dip back in…

A Murder in Time, by Julie McElwain

Two and a half stars, read in June 2017. I was a little disappointed by the execution of what was a really intriguing, exciting premise. A twenty-first-century FBI agent hunting a nineteenth-century serial killer—it’s time travel plus historical fiction plus mystery with a smart, strong female protagonist, and since I always feel like I should try…

Dietland, by Sarai Walker

Three and a half stars, read in March 2017. This book was a strange mix of things. I loved the premise and the protagonist’s character development, but was a little confused and unsatisfied by the progression and conclusion of the Jennifer storyline. In the first place, it seemed weird to me that the protagonist was…

The Boat Rocker, by Ha Jin

One star, read in February 2017. I hated every page of this book. I started hopefully, because I was intrigued by Waiting and have been wanting to read Ha Jin’s other books for a long time. But my hackles went up on the first page—in the second paragraph—and I only got more and more suspicious until…

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante

Five stars, read in October 2016. Gorgeous. Such a fascinating relationship between the protagonist—smart, insightful, but noticeably young—and Lila—who’s more like a force of nature than anything else. I love how not pretty the book is, how it’s about the violence and smallness of life. The dynamics of Elena Greco’s neighborhood act out the tension, the…

In the Miso Soup, by Ryu Murakami

Five stars, read on the last day of September 2016. I should have written about this back then, because now I won’t be able to remember details. But this book was so notable that I still feel I need to post something about it. For several years Ryu has just been the other Murakami, the one who gets in…

Waiting, by Ha Jin

Three and a half stars, read in February 2017. The best word I can choose for this book is bittersweet. I’ve had a difficult time figuring out how I feel about it. For some reason it took me a very long time to pick it up, but when I did, it was a sick day…

Empress, by Shan Sa

Two and a half stars, read in December 2016. Translated from French. This was a little dry; at times it felt like reading a catalog. A thousand horses in the parade, a thousand ministers, a thousand concubines, a thousand drums, and so on, sometimes for two or three pages. It made for easy skimming, though, which…