Friday, July 31, 2015

One Sentence Reviews: July

Well, dear readers, your resident grump has skated across the 100-book threshold--little more than halfway through 2015! As I mentioned back in April, almost all of these books are new--if not in terms of release date, at least to me. This has certainly been the year for discovering new treasures. Thanks to all of you who have emailed me book recommendations. I've found a lot of new favorites, and only two or three worth throwing against the wall.

As a side note, I don't count reading a book multiple times on these lists. So the relatively small number (for me) of "books read" this month doesn't reflect reading Mary Doria Russell's Doc for the third time, or Mary Renault's The Charioteer for the second. (Or the... three? total times which I have read The Goblin Emperor since January of this year, after the two readings of last summer.)

July 2015

  • Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee (2015, YA historical)
    • A Chinese orphan and a runaway slave become unlikely friends as they make their way to hopeful refuge on the Oregon Trail, dressed as men for their safety. -- A limping start, but a fun adventure full of humor and grit, toothsome turns of phrase, and a unique perspective of the dangers of cross-country travel in the 1800s. 3/5 stars.
  • Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell (2015, historical)
    • Tombstone, Arizona suffers cattle rustling rings, fires, floods, and the epic showdowns between famous figures of the Old West. -- It lacks the emotive heart of its predecessor, "Doc," and the vague threads of plot are too tangled to follow. 3/5 stars. (Full review here!)
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (2014, contemporary mystery)
    • Investigations into drowning death of a mixed-race girl provokes contemplation throughout the family tree. -- This would be a good "book club" book, full of thought-provoking revelations about ordinary family life and social pressures. 3.5/5 stars.
  • We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson (1962, thriller)
    • Orphaned sisters suspected of poisoning their entire family protect each other and the family estate from hostile neighbors. -- A hands-down perfect book. 5/5 stars. (Full review here!)
  • Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters (1998, historical)
    • Lovestruck village girl follows dazzling male impersonator to London, cycles through varying alternative lifestyles and means of supporting herself before becoming a socialist. -- I was charmed by the start, then sickened, then bored. 3/5 stars.
  • The Charioteer by Mary Renault (1953, historical)
    • After Dunkirk evacuation, crippled British soldier wrestles with his integrity as he falls in love with a conscientious objector working at the hospital. -- This book strikes me differently on each reread, but every time I am dazzled and can't think of anything else for days but its subtle intensity. 5/5 stars.
  • Memoirs of an Invisible Man by H.F. Saint (1987, thriller)
    • Average businessman rendered invisible after lab accident, struggles with daily survival and the requisite interested government agencies. -- If you can stomach the casual amorality of the protagonist, this offers a complex and engaging look at the pros and cons of invisibility, plus heart-pounding hunt/escape sequences. 3/5 stars. (Full review here!)
  • Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman (2007, contemporary)
    • Son of Italian resort owner develops crush on summer guest, waxes poetic. -- When I wasn't rolling my eyes over the histrionic narration, I was revolted by the characters. 1/5 stars.
  • As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann (2001, historical)
    • Murdering servant boy escapes justice by joining the English Civil War, falls in love with a fellow soldier, and continues to be a murderer. After the previous book, I couldn't stomach another several hundred pages with a protagonist I disliked so much--so this is one of the very rare books I didn't even finish reading. 1/5 stars.
  • The Best Of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (2013, sci-fi)
    • After the destruction of their own planet, post-human refugees interview other post-human settlements for potential future spouses. -- Only rarely could I understand what was happening in this story, much less why. 2/5 stars.
  • The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (2012, postapocalyptic survival)
    • Ragged survivor of apocalyptic flu, his dog, and his gun-happy survivalist neighbor eke out a living in the abandoned Colorado countryside. -- A slow and methodical book about finding what one needs to survive, both in terms of physical needs and emotional ones. 4/5 stars.
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (1997, YA adventure)
    • Half-Inuit girl flees underage marriage into the Alaskan wilderness, is adopted into a wolf pack. -- A revisited childhood favorite was nothing at all like I remembered. 3/5 stars.
  • H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald (2014, memoir)
    • Inspired by T.H. White, the author undertakes to train a goshawk to sublimate her grief over her father's death. -- Rich in insight and uncommon in subject. 4/5 stars. (Full review here!)

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