Monday, December 17, 2018

Books I Read in November

Well, we're barreling right along toward Christmas now, but I've just unburied myself from the avalanche that is the end of the semester, and now I'm back and ready to talk about reading for fun!

But really, that was one of the more exhausting semesters I've ever had. I loved my classes, but for some reason they all seemed to require so much more work than classes I've had before (more papers, longer papers, more reading, longer reading). And teaching/grading is always exhausting. It was a great semester for me as far as interesting research/writing, but I'm burned out in every way imaginable. I need this winter break so I can start feeling like a normal human functioning on more than survival mode. So grateful to be back here now!

Anyway, my November reading post is one of the many things that got put off in the midst of end-of-term paper writing. I'm sure most of you neither noticed nor cared, but I love writing those posts so much for the reflection time they give me about my pleasure reading. So, this is for me, even if none of you care. I only got around to six books in November (now, six books is actually a pretty good number for me, it's just down from the whopping 10 or so I read in October), because one of them was beastly long (and I only read half of it). But anyway, here they are:

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

This one was a assigned reading, but I read it once before in high school (for fun back then...). Anyway, I can't really say I recommend this one, let alone like it, but it is still fascinating in so many ways. First off, Flaubert is just an incredible writer. This is a translation, and the amazing writing still shines through (oh, if only my French were good enough to read it in the original!). Second, I'm always fascinated by the negative portrayal of pleasure reading in this novel, and how Madame Bovary can never find happiness in life because real life doesn't measure up to the romantic books she reads. It feels like Flaubert is blaming the books, but honestly, I blame Madame Bovary. For some reason, all the men in my class found her a fascinating and attractive character (phrases like, "I would date her if she were a real person" were used in class), but I can't stand the woman. She annoys me beyond what is reasonable to be annoyed by a fictional character, and I'm sooooo frustrated by her life choices. Anyway, this makes for a fantastic English class/book club read (lots to discuss!), but does not make for a happy read.

Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov,

Third in the series, and my favorite up to this point, though I had to stop after this one because my library doesn't have the next book in the series available on audio (I could write a whole post about my library's spotty and disappointing audio book offerings, ugh!), so we'll see if I continue with the series. After all my complaining about the lack of female characters in the first book, here Asimov comes up with a rather delightful and precocious teenage girl who steals the show. And this whole mind-reading thing has really taken the series into a much more interesting place plot-wise. If you like science-fiction, I really do recommend this series.

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Perhaps not my favorite of the series, but good enough that I will keep along with it (I can't believe I've read six of these!). The murder investigation in this one was a little uncompelling to me (the opening of an old investigation was far more interesting, but also split the plot up), but I learned a lot of interesting stuff about Quebec and Canadian history which I enjoyed, and as always, the food descriptions were insanely mouthwatering. These books make such great winter reads, too, because Canada just sounds so darn cold all the time.

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

I finally got around to reading this long anticipated sequel to My Lady Jane (which I loved so much)! And, I have complicated thoughts. First, I think I really, really would've loved this one if I didn't love the original Jane Eyre  so much. If I could just disassociate this story from that one, if this could just be its own stand-alone historical fantasy fiction, I would've really loved it. The ghost element was a lot of fun, their humor was characteristically delightful, and there was so much to like. Unfortunately, they kept reminding me that this was riff on  Jane Eyre by actually quoting lines from the original, which just made their own writing look pale and juvenile in comparison. I think the ways they tried to rewrite the story and redeem Mr. Rochester were interesting, but in order to make Rochester palatable they basically had to break him up with Jane, which I don't necessarily disagree with, because I don't like Rochester in the original, but then it wasn't Jane's love story... and it just meant Jane wasn't the character I loved from the original, so that was hard for me. But if you haven't read the original, or don't care about, and just enjoy fun and light historical fantasy fiction, this one is worth the read.

The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer

How I do enjoy a good Heyer novel! This was her first (apparently written when she was 17, or something ridiculous like that), and given that, I find it remarkably good. It's not her best novel, and a lot of the criticism comes from it being so darn cliche. And yes, when it comes to the stereotypical melodrama, I think Heyer manages to tick off every single cliche in the book. But she does it with such flair! The villain is sooo villainous, the hero so dashedly charming and deserving, the heroine so beautiful and in distress... it is all just delicious fun. I could absolutely see the influence of The Scarlet Pimpernel in this one.  I devoured this one, loved every minute of it.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Okay, this was a quixotic pick for me (did you see what I did there?), but after reading Madame Bovary (Flaubert was heavily influenced by Don Quixote) and thinking about the way this story has influenced attitudes on books and the power of reading, and thinking it might relate tangentially to the topic I wanted to write my paper about, and seeing it was available on audio (when so many other things I want to read are not), I decided to listen to it for fun. Okay, I recommend no one do this, unless, like me, you are pursuing an advance degree in literature. This may have been wildly popular in it's day, and it may be very influential, and have a lot of great characters and funny moments, but as a whole it does not translate well to the modern day. It is long and tedious. I barely made it through Part 1, and decided to just stop there when I realized that Part 2 was written more than a decade later and only after fans asked for more. I'm glad I read it, I did end up using it in my paper, but if you're interested, just do yourself a favor and stick to the musical version or some other modern adaptation. Don't suffer through the early seventeenth century prose and meandering plot lines.

I started Don Quixote in mid November, and it took me the rest of the month to finish it, so that's all for my pleasure reading last month. December has been off to a slow start (thanks to all the time spent writing said papers), but now that I'm on break I'm hoping things pick up a bit. Holiday time means reading for fun time, am I right?

No comments:

Post a Comment