Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One Sentence Reviews: September

I have now sat upon my review of Mary Renault's The Charioteer for two months, like a hen with an egg. I begin to wonder if it will ever hatch... or if I've been incubating a rock this whole time.

In the meantime, I read a lot of classics and war stories this month, most of which deserve a thumbs-up! If you haven't read some of the 4- and 5-star rated books of this month, I highly encourage you to give them a go.

September 2015

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik (2015, historical fantasy)
    • Local wizard claims village girls to help him fight the spread of a haunted forest. -- A worthy addition to the ranks of modern fairy tales. 4/5 stars. (Full review here!)
  • Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory (2008, supernatural thriller)
    • Society has more or less adjusted to the pandemic of temporary demonic possessions, but one man struggles with the suspicion that he has never recovered. -- The book started strong with a compelling premise and a narrator I enjoyed, but crumbled over time. 3/5 stars.
  • Because It Is Bitter, And Because It Is My Heart by Joyce Carol Oates (1990, historical fiction)
    • A white girl and a black boy are the only witnesses to a murder, which distorts the rest of their lives. -- Neither as lyrical nor as moving as her short stories. 2/5 stars.
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1895, historical fiction)
    • Inexperienced volunteer has high expectations of his own bravery and prowess entering the Civil War, and is disappointed. -- I remain convinced that the "classics" of early American literature only maintain a spot on the list because there is so little to choose from. 2/5 stars.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (1929, historical fiction)
    • Isolated from the society that sent them to die, German soldiers salvage what food and what peace they can. -- Required reading for high schoolers, but in my opinion, this should be handed out again a year after college for a new perspective. 5/5 stars.
  • Three Comrades by Erich Maria Remarque (1936, historical fiction)
    • German WWI veterans enjoy the small slice of life left to them. -- Thoughtful, meandering, and comforting, like a slow-cooker stew. 3/5 stars.
  • The Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke (1905, poetry)
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff (2008, historical fiction)
    • Two accidental criminals are offered a reprieve in exchange for an impossible task: to find a dozen eggs in Leningrad, a city starving under siege. -- It's too ghastly to be as funny as it is, yet somehow succeeds. 4/5 stars.
  • Year's Best SF 9 collected by David G. Hartwell (2004, sci-fi anthology)
    • One good story by Octavia Butler had me wanting more; one or two others were temporarily engaging; the rest were entirely forgettable. 3/5 stars.
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012, historical fiction)
    • Captured wireless operator agrees to tell her Nazi captors everything she knows, in the form of a story about her best friend. -- Gross Sobbing About Female Friendship And Unreliable Narrators: The Book! 5/5 stars. (Full review here!)
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (2006, fantasy)
    • High-society thieves in a complex fantasy underworld take on a job that may prove too clever and deadly to pull off. -- I didn't know how much fantasy literature needed the "heist" subgenre. 4/5 stars.
  • A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird (1879, memoir)
    • English lady traveler chronicles the American West and her accidental romance with a mountain desperado. -- One of my personal "comfort" reads, both for the historical exploration of places I've lived and for the charm and ache of the real-life Hollywood love story. 4/5 stars. (Full review here!)
  • Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (2013, historical fiction)
    • (Sequel to Code Name VerityTraumatized female pilot struggles to describe the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp. -- Without an appealing or sympathetic narrator, this laundry list of horrors failed to be a good story. 2/5 stars.
  • White Space by Ilsa J. Bick (2014, YA sci-fi)
    • Ensemble cast of teens are plopped into a series of existential nightmares as a result of their (fictional) author's supernatural meddlings, and die variously. -- A hot mess of a book, the reading of which felt like someone shaking you and shouting "Are you freaked out yet?!" at the top of their lungs. 1/5 stars.
  • The Dickens Mirror by Ilsa J. Bick (2015, YA sci-fi)
    • (Sequel to White Space) Ensemble cast of teens reappear in different roles in an apocalyptic Victorian London, and die variously. -- The author prides herself on being "challenging" in an awkward self-insert scene, but mistakes "incoherent" for "insightful." 2/5 stars.

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