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Reading Log: September 2012

It’s time for another monthly update on my Reading Log!  September flew by, and I have to say I’m glad that the holidays are quickly approaching.  I can’t wait to see family again!  In the meantime, I’ve been reading pretty steadily–mostly on the bus commute to and from work.  My phone had some issues for a couple days last week, and I was in such a bad mood at work.  When my phone was working again and I could read on my lunch break, all of a sudden I was in a much better mood!

So here’s my Reading Log for September 2012, with my thoughts about each book to help me remember what I read.  I’ve included all the books that I’ve read or finished during the month (even if I started some of them outside of the month).  Plus I like to rate the books I read on the grading system and keep track of the binding.  I’m not exactly sure why I started recording that… except that I like my statistics at the end of the year 🙂

September 2012

HB = Hardback, PB = Paperback, AB = Audio book, K = Kindle.

Title Start Finish Grade/
Format
The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72,
by Molly Peacock
7/14/12 9/3/12

A
PB

An Abundance of Katherines,
by John Green
9/4/12 9/8/12

A
K

Paper Towns,
by John Green
9/4/12 9/8/23

A+
K

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate,
by Jacqueline Kelly
9/8/12 9/30/12

A
PB

Let the Great World Spin,
by Colum McCann
9/9/12 9/15/12

A
K

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy,
by Karen Doornebos
9/15/12 9/27/12

C+
K

Beauty Queens,
by Libba Bray
9/27/12 Still Reading

TBD
K

Thoughts:

The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72, by Molly Peacock (A)

This book was quite a voyage!  You know that quote about life being a journey, and not a destination?  Well, that completely applies to this book.  It’s a biography, sure, of a woman living in the 1700s who began her life’s work at age 72, but it’s also a meditation on being an artist, and becoming an artist in late-life, and some social history of the 18th century, as well as some botanical history and even a bit of the author’s autobiography thrown in.  A lot of different genres come crashing in together, but somehow it works.  The artist, Mary Delany, is fascinating—her life, her art, her time, her personality, her accomplishments.  The whole thing reminded me of a behind-the-scenes look at an Austen novel, with scandal and manners and social commentary.  I’m tempted to read the Delany bio written by Ruth Hayden, whom the author interviewed and referenced frequently.

The only qualm I have is that the author—a poet—interpreted a lot of the artwork as having sexual implications that seemed really bizarre and far-fetched to me.  I know art imitates life, but I was not convinced that the colors or shapes of the flowers in Mrs. Delany’s artwork had anything to do with her sexual experiences.  Nothing about the way Mrs. Delany led her life implied that at all, so although I liked the overall poetic tone of the writing, I was a little annoyed by some of the over-analyzing.  But otherwise, this was a really unique and interesting book that I was glad to drift through slowly.  I’m sad it’s over, but now I’m hankering for some Jane Austen!

I wrote more about this book here, while I was still reading.

An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green (A)

Lots of fun to read.  A purely enjoyable novel about teenagers on a road trip after high school graduation.  But the road trip doesn’t even last that long, and it’s really just an excuse for great characters to interact—Colin, a former child prodigy who can’t seem to stop falling in love with girls named Katherine; his best friend Hassan, the loyal comic relief, and the people they meet in the tiny town of Gutshot, TN.  I’m a sucker for Southern characters; I guess I just love that homesick feeling of familiarity.  I wouldn’t say this is a particularly deep story, especially compared to other John Green books, but the characters are genuine, the trivia is entertaining, and the storytelling is superb.  Green perfectly captures that time in life when your biggest concern is if you really matter in the grand scheme of things.  You know, before you actually have to work for a living and life’s problems get increasingly more serious.  I like remembering that time of life!

Paper Towns, by John Green (A+)

I had no preconceptions going into this book, I didn’t even read the blurb about it.  All I knew was that it was written by John Green, and once again he didn’t disappoint!  The plot could’ve gone in a very clichéd direction–but the characters saved it.  Unattainable girl, unrequited love, loyal friends, an obsessive quest to figure out the mystery of one girl’s disappearance right before high school graduation.  I even liked the ending, which was pretty tricky to pull off–somehow it was just the right combination of realistic and wish-fulfilling.  Funny, compelling, sweet, riveting.

 

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly (A)

Calpurnia is 11 during the summer of 1899, living in Texas as the only sister in a family of six boys.  She forms an unlikely relationship with her cantankerous grandfather when she decides to become a naturalist.  I really enjoyed delving again into Children’s Lit geared toward middle grades, certainly a hefty chapter book but not at all YA Lit.  It was like a sigh of relief to be in a child’s world again.  I like how the plot was episodic but still comprehensive, and the author deftly explores themes of gender and racial inequality while remaining historically accurate.  A thoughtful and entertaining story about the transitory  period of life both for a young girl and our country as the next century approached.

I wrote more about this book here, while I was still reading.

P.S. I love the cover art!  There are little details in the paper cutting if you look closely–the microscope and bug in a jar are my favorites.  Seriously, I could stare at the details on this cover for a long, long time!

 

Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann (A)

Book club pick for September.  This book grew on me.  Interconnected stories centered around the tightrope walker who walked between the world trade center towers in the 1970s.  Some very gritty characters, all interwoven throughout the book.  Some perspectives were easier to get into than others, but I enjoyed the connections.  Definitely challenged my normal taste in books, but it was good to get out of my comfort zone.

I wrote more about this book here, while I was still reading.

 

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos (C+)

This could have been delightful if it was executed better.  The idea was really fun—a modern day woman obsessed with Jane Austen accidentally signs up for a reality TV dating show staged as if it was set in 1812.  Women compete for a marriage proposal and prize money, all while living in authentic Regency-era conditions.  Unfortunately, the writing was all over the place.  There was so much going on… impossible riddles, lots (and lots) of flip-flopping feelings, love interests that weren’t very interesting, unaccountable fainting.

(By the way, fainting in books is a pet peeve of mine.  Nobody faints every time they get scared or uncomfortable, especially three times in two weeks!  If so, you need to seek medical attention!  It’s 2012, fainting should no longer be excusable as a convenient plot device to get out of tricky situations!!  OK, exclamations over.)

I’ve read my share of romance novels, so I am no snob and can stomach a lot of cheesiness, but this was downright incoherent at times.  The most annoying part for me was that the characters said or did things that didn’t support their personalities.  Why lay the groundwork for characterization and then have every single person act completely out of character?  Very frustrating.   I did, however, like the general premise and the historically accurate tidbits.  But the plot took too many ridiculous turns and the writing just wasn’t cohesive enough to pull it off.  Which is unfortunate, because I was really looking forward to reading a light-hearted novel combining two of my favorite topics: Jane Austen and reality TV!  Could have been a perfect combination, and I was willing to overlook a lot of flaws.  I will admit that the ending was pretty good, which was majorly redeeming, so I can’t hate this altogether.

 

Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray

Just started reading, but so far it’s amazing!  I’ll set the scene: a plane carrying teenaged beauty pageant contestants crash lands on a deserted island.  There also happens to be a covert secret agent operation hidden in a volcano, seeking to bring mass consumerism to third world countries.  Hijinks ensue.  Imagine Lord of the Flies, except with pageant girls and witty satire.

So that’s what I’ve been reading during the month of September.  Anyone else reading a good book?

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