Book reviews

This has been an eclectic mix of books for me lately, and some of them I had to struggle to get through a bit. I’ll also admit: I didn’t quite struggle through all of them!

 

Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare

The Infernal Devices is Cassandra Clare’s other series, a prelude to the Immortal Instrument series. Clockwork Princess is the last book in the trilogy (I think it’s a trilogy? Clare has confounded me before by writing a finished trilogy, then keeps on going). Anyway, I like the Infernal Devices way more than the Immortal Instruments. The characters are more likeable, there is no weird incest issues going on, and set in Victorian London, there is a cool steam-punk vibe to it. I also really enjoyed the epilogue, tying up all the characters problems neatly, in a way that everyone will end up happy. Vastly more enjoyable than the “City of” books. I hope they make these into movies, because the visuals would be awesome.


Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail, by Cheryl Strayed

I was reluctant to read this book because it’s an Oprah book. Is it bad that I try to avoid Oprah’s books? I often find the books to be quite similar, but I know it’s unfair because I have enjoyed some of her picks. Wild is one of them. I read it for my bookclub and was happy to find it was a really well-written autobiography about a woman, struggling with grief and drug abuse, decided to walk the Pacific Coast Trail without any of the proper equipment or training. Strayed was unrelentingly honest about her character, which is not always flattering. It did lead to discussion between us about whether we liked her or not and the answer was we weren’t sure. I appreciated that honesty, and how she managed to make what could have been a boring trek into something fun to read.

 

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

Going into this book, I was really excited. I thought it was about reincarnation, about how our souls float through time and that decisions and people from past lives affect what happens in our future. But the whole book was kind of lacking when it came to the resonating of our souls. It’s several short stories that continuously interrupt each other as they chronologically go through time. The only real connection between the “soul” characters is they all have a birthmark? I wanted something more clever than this, something where questions raised in the beginning were answered by others in different times. It does show that Mitchell is a brilliant writer, capable of writing in absolutely any style. For that alone I am in awe of him, but Cloud Atlas didn’t meet my expectations.

 

The Shack, by William Young

I rarely blog about aborted attempts to get through a book, because why write about something I didn’t think was worthy of finishing. In the case of Young’s The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity, I got through about two-thirds before I had to stop. It was just not what I wanted to be reading at the time. Somewhat counter-intuitive, since I was just complaining how Cloud Atlas lacked soul. Well, The Shack had WAY too much soul. I thought the concept of the novel was fascinating: a man, whose daughter had been brutally murdered several years previously, receives a note, allegedly from God, to meet at the shack where the very act occurred. I was hoping for a brilliant plot where it was never quite revealed who sent the note, but we suspect that God did have a hand to play in it, and along the way the man finds his way to acceptance of the horrible hand fate dealt him. The actual book was a lot more heavy-handed than that. The man goes to the shack and meets God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and the rest of the book is preach-y conversations about how God works. There was no subtly at all here. That was my major disappointment. It was also way Christian-centric, which is fine if you’re into that. Since I didn’t get all the way through the book, I’m not sure if the author discusses other religions, but I just got to a point where Christianity was hitting me over the head, repeatedly, and I wasn’t interested. It reminded me, in its obvious-ness, to the Celestine Prophecy. If that’s your kind of thing, then you will enjoy this book.

 

Sweet Tooth, by Ian McEwan

When I first read the summary of this spy novel by McEwan, I thought it sounded a little popcorn, a nice light read. I should have figured that popcorn for McEwan (the same author of Atonement) would be any other writer’s caviar. Sweet Tooth is pretty meta, about a woman spy who falls in love with the writer she’s tasked with bringing onto MI5’s pay roll without him knowing about it. He writes interesting short stories described in the book, but then it turns out (spoiler alert!) that the whole novel itself is the book he is writing throughout the novel, ending with an explanation. It was pretty fun. I’m usually not that into writerly “tricks” like that (neither is the female protagonist of the novel), but in this case it really did work. And I love a happy (implied) ending.

Word of the day:

Penultimate: next to the last: the penultimate scene of the play

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