Thursday, January 29, 2015

Books Read: October and November 2014

October 1st: The Diving Pool, Yoko Ogawa. Interesting and highly creepy short stories by a Japanese author. Grade: A-.
October 8th: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, Gabor Mate. A bit disappointing, this book about addiction began really well but peters out into jeremiads on the author's pet theories. Grade: B+.
October 11th: The Happy Return, C.S. Forester. Excellent entry in the Hornblower series as Horatio deals with sea battles and crazy power-hungry dictators. Grade: A.
October 12th: The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children, Shefali Tsabary. Parenting book too hippy even for me, which is saying something. I also found it repetitive. Grade: C-.
October 16th: Messer Marco Polo, Donn Byrne. Very charming tale of Marco Polo's (mythical) affair with Kubla Khan's daughter, as told by an Irishman. Grade: A-.
October 17th: Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem. Detective fiction starring a misfit adult orphan with Tourette's syndrome. Quirky, funny but occasionally veers into cliche and caricature. Grade: B.
October 28th: My Alien Self: My Journey Back to Me, Amanda Green. Autobiography about an otherwise rather ordinary middle class Brit with Borderline Personality Disorder. Self published and it shows. Grade: C-.
October 29th: Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel. Wonderful historical fiction: vivid, accurate and fascinating. A must-read if you like this genre. Grade: A+.

November 3rd: A Ship of the Line, C.S. Forester. Another great entry in the Hornblower series. Grade: A.
November 3rd: A Handful of Dust, Evelyn Waugh. Very good novel about morally degenerated upper class Brits, though this means every character is unsympathetic and vaguely repulsive. The ending scenes in the jungles of Guyana are especially fine. Grade: A-.
November 6th: Sherlock in Shanghai: Stories of Crime and Detection, Xiaoqing Cheng. Chinese detective fiction inspired by Western models, in particular Sherlock Holmes. Most interesting for the setting of 1920s and 1930s Shanghai. Grade: B.
November 13th: Flying Colours, C.S. Forester. Hornblower becomes a prisoner of war, then escapes and goes on the lam in Napoleonic France. Drags a bit but overall excellent. Grade: A-. 
November 15th: The Tiger's Wife, Tea Obreht. Magical realism set in the contemporary and 1940s/50s? Balkans. Beautiful writing and some haunting scenes. Grade: A-.
November 17th: Red Mandarin Dress, Qiu Xiaolong. Another Chinese detective story set in Shanghai, this time in the early 1990s. Setting is great, the rest not so much. Grade: B-. 
November 18th: Dark Matter, Michelle Paver. Seriously creepy ghost story set in the wintry Arctic. Characters are interesting and the supernatural elements are extremely well done. Great example of the genre. Grade: A. 
November 19th: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Winifred Watson. Slight but fun fluff about a life-changing day in the life of a middle-aged unsuccessful governess. Grade: B.
November 26th: Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. The classic is much more Romantic and emotionally overwrought (two things I don't really like) than I remembered. The plot is also ridiculous. But some scenes and images (monster and creator pursuing each other via dogsled in the high Arctic, for example) are fantastic, as is the concept. Grade: B+.

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