Friday, January 27, 2012

Favorite Reads Fall and Summer 2011

I had a great reading year and I just have to share some of the highlights!

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

What I loved: The plot builds so slowly that I might not have finished this book if I hadn’t known the premise from reviews. The central characters' magic skills are pitted against each other in a dark contest for survival and the story question of who will win and how their relationship will play out kept me turning pages. Many devices, including ongoing color symbolism, add dimension to the conflict. The outcome is skillfully and creatively spun and the entire arc was completely satisfying.

Not so much: Distracting all-over-the-place time jumps from chapter to chapter.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

What I loved: The masterful weaving of a complex mystery centering on an assassin who's motivated by justice and a writer who reluctantly ghost writes a contest entry, inadvertantly disturbing the "Little People". This woman and man met years earlier when they formed a permanent bond but lost contact, and now the events surrounding the mystery cause them to search for one another. The accessible fantasy element provides overarching questions in the alternate 1984 setting. Even the 925 page length was enjoyable due to the great pacing. It does have it's share of raw material, but most of it's easy to navigate around, if it proves bothersome.
I'm tickled sequels are written & assume they'll be available in English at some point.

Not so much: An event that exceeds anything built into the story world and, then, a too-easy intuitiveness regarding the event is the only plot movement in the last quarter.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.

What I loved: I didn’t expect to like this book, but it was the most riveting character-based fiction I’ve read in awhile. Reminiscent of Gatsby in tone (although this book is captivating), focuses on a society guy and a working girl in pre-WWII NYC. The deeper themes gave a lot of resonance. The atmosphere, characterization, pacing, conflict, were about flawless.

Not so much: The title—didn’t do this book justice.

The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

What I loved: The texture--multiple rich settings (it opens in a library, for goodness sake), first-person-history (even of wine!), ancient manuscripts to name a few--the great conflict between otherworldly creatures, and the evolving relationship between a 1500 year-old vampire and a witch reluctant to use her powers due to her parents' violent death. I wasn't sure if the fantasy element would be too dark for my taste, so I listened to the audio, masterfully narrated by Jennifer Ikeda, and the execution of the French accents, especially, added another dimension. This is a narrative to savor! I can't wait for the sequel in July 2012 and I'm really hoping the movie that's in the works will happen.

Not so much: Beats me!

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