Friday, May 1, 2015

One Sentence Reviews: April

The history of this blog suggests that I take two months off per year from writing reviews. Dear readers, as you may have noticed, April 2015 was one of those months.

Despite the hiatus, I have been reading up a storm this spring. Just a few days ago, I crossed off my fiftieth book of 2015! I'm excited that the books I've read have mostly been new to me(if not necessarily recent publications.) So many books, so little time! My thanks to all of you who recommend books, directly or indirectly. And a special thanks to the local library for being so obliging.

A fair number of March and April's books deserve a full and enthusiastic book grump, which shall be delivered to your RSS feeds in due course. In the meantime, let me take this chance to post something I've been considering for a while: an abbreviated monthly roundup. One sentence summaries, one sentence reviews!

APRIL 2015

  • The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla (2014, contemporary)
    • Superstitious Sicilian grandmother convinces hideously birthmarked child that she has holy healing powers; might not be lying. -- A book I never knew I wanted: humor and trauma, family history and fairy tale all in one. 4.5/5 stars. (Full review here!
  • Farm City by Novella Carpenter (2009, memoir)
    • Hapless optimist turns empty slum lot into vegetable garden/chicken run/beehive/pigpen, befriends thugs and hobos, eats well. -- Readers will be entertained and inspired to do all sorts of wacky things. 4/5 stars.
  • Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran (2015, historical)
    • Orphaned girl joins the all-female guard of the Rani of Jhansi, gets a front-row seat to watch the British overrun India. -- An insulting and insipid little wheeze in the direction of a real-life legend. 1/5 stars.
  • Rusalka by C.J. Cherryh (1989, folklore/historical)
    • Two runaways get lost in the deep Russian forests, are beset by monsters, ghosts, and wizards, and decide to make it home. -- I have such a huge soft spot for the characters and the world-logic of these wizards, even if the narration itself gets more than a little muddled. 3/5 stars.
  • Chernevog by C.J. Cherryh (1990, folklore/historical)
    • (Sequel to Rusalka) Formerly-dead wives prove difficult to live with; local trees are ornery; local terrifying sorcerer wakes up and wants to be your best friend. -- A delightful continuation, with the same virtues and failings as the first. 3/5 stars.
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2006, YA contemporary)
    • Australian teens play war games for what turns out to be no good reason at all. -- I had only the faintest idea of what was happening at any given point in this book. 2/5 stars.
  • If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (2013, YA contemporary)
    • Iranian girl contemplates a sex change to marry the girl of her dreams, who probably isn't worth it. -- The book is more of a summary than an actual story, written vaguely and with no particular heart. 1/5 stars.
  • The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan (2012, contemporary)
    • A schizophrenic artist attempts to record her haunting by a woman she met twice, each for the first time, who may not have been human. -- A complex read, with moments of great compassion surfacing amid the maelstrom of mental illness. 2/5 stars.
  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (1996, sci-fi)
    • Jesuit mission to the first known inhabited planet ends in disaster; lone survivor wrestles with faith in the face of unbearable trauma. -- This is the sort of book that the phrase "a great and terrible beauty" should apply to, not anemic boarding-school fantasies. I purchased a copy immediately after reading, and violated the terms of this post to write two sentences in its honor. 5/5 stars. (Full review here!)
  • Heat by Bill Buford (2006, memoir)
    • Ambitious columnist apprentices himself to a professional chef, rises through the ranks of the kitchen, then heads to Italy to learn the art of butchery. -- A fun repeat read, well-composed, evocative, and funny. 5/5 stars. (Full review here!)
  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh (2013, memoir/humor)
    • A series of illustrated anecdotes about the author's childhood, dogs, and struggles with depression. -- Humorous, but the absence of my favorite stories leads me to prefer the original blog. 3/5 stars.
  • Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve (2008, historical)
    • Foundling child taken under Merlin's wing compares the historical truth of King Arthur with the glorious stories Merlin spreads as propaganda. -- It ended eventually. 1/5 stars.
  • The Girl With All The Gifts by Mike Carey (2014, sci-fi)
    • A ragged group of survivors--scientists and soldiers--try to cross a zombie-filled England, with one child-sized and remarkably intelligent zombie along for the ride. -- It goes both better and worse than you would expect, by which I mean both the book and the plot. 3/5 stars.
  • The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (2001, fantasy)
    • Traumatized war veteran trains a future queen to survive a treacherous court, and learns firsthand how terrifying it is to have the eyes of the gods on you personally. -- If you read can only read one more fantasy book for the entire rest of your life, make it this one. 5/5 stars. (Full review here!
  • The Children of God by Mary Doria Russell (1998, sci-fi)
    • (Sequel to The Sparrow) Disgraced priest plans to relinquish his holy calling and find what comfort he can in an ordinary life; the Jesuit Order plans to send him back to the alien planet, as the only one who can redeem the first mission's mistakes. -- I seem to be alone in feeling that The Sparrow needed no sequel; this was interesting from a sci-fi perspective but not arresting on an emotional or spiritual level. 3/5 stars.
  • I Shall Be Near To You by Erin McCabe (2014, historical)
    • Headstrong bride follows her husband into the Union Army rather than be separated from him. -- No worse and no better than a dozen other books with the same plotline; misses the chance to take a less predictable turn (and be a better book.) 2/5 stars.
  • Doc by Mary Doria Russell (2011, historical)
    • Tubercular dentist/gambler strives to make his life, if not longer, at least meaningful. -- A staggeringly good character piece. 4.5/5 stars. (Full review here!)

No comments:

Post a Comment