February was a pretty busy month for me, hence the less frequent posts, but on the upside I did get quite a bit of reading done.
Without further ado, here’s my wrap up for February!
Book 1: The Gunslinger by Stephen King. This is actually my second attempt at King’s Dark Tower series. I first read The Gunslinger when I was in high school and after so many years I only had vague memories of what turned out to be just a couple of scenes. I clearly hadn’t liked it enough to pick up the next one way back when, and I was curious to see if I’d like it any better now, nearly a decade later. Changing reading tastes and whatnot. It happened that I had a road trip from LA to northern California ahead of me, the audiobook was available to download from the library, and boom – there was my entertainment for the drive. As far as this second go round is concerned, I can’t say that I enjoyed it much more than I did in high school. Do I find the world intriguing? Absolutely. Was I particularly interested or invested in the fate of Roland, the story’s hero (or antihero, I suppose)? Not really. I think that’s why, in the two times I’ve now read this story, I’ve had such trouble getting into it. I’m curious about Roland’s journey, but I have no emotional stake in it one way or another. While I won’t rule out continuing on to the next book, it definitely won’t be at the top of my priority list.
Book 2: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas. Let me start by saying that, on the whole, I very much enjoyed this latest installment in the Throne of Glass series. Maas certainly knows how to write an entertaining novel, and I think her greatest strength is in the wide ensemble of personalities that make up the beating heart of the story. But there are also some pretty glaring flaws in its pacing and reliance on certain storytelling tropes – particularly towards the end. I’m looking at you, giant info dumps…all of you. And don’t get me wrong. I’m a sucker for a big reveal as much as the next reader, but so many of the reveals and, in certain cases the relationships behind them, never felt fully developed in the first place and therefore did not feel earned from a narrative standpoint. I don’t know how much of this is due to the strict deadlines Maas works under versus this just being her storytelling style, but I’m hoping the next (and final!) book in the series comes together more organically than I thought this one did. Regardless, I will be buying it when it’s released.
Book 3: Animal Farm by George Orwell. Hey look, a classic! What do ya know? I actually read this to prepare for an audition for a stage adaptation of Orwell’s famous allegorical tale. Somehow it escaped every required reading list I had in high school and college, and the only details I knew of the story were the presence of communist animals who take over their farm and the famous line: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” The social commentary isn’t subtle, but I doubt subtly was Orwell’s aim. After all, its subtitle is “A Fairy Story”. I would say that I enjoyed it but with the current political climate being what it it, a book about corruption in government hit a little too close to home.
Book 4: Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi. I downloaded this audiobook from the library on a whim. Oyeyemi’s collection of short stories What is Not Yours is Not Yours has been on my wish list for a while, but I just haven’t gotten around to picking it up. And since I’ve never read anything of hers, I decided to give Mr. Fox a listen. It has been a long, long time since I’ve read a novel containing magical realism. I’m fairly certain the only one I’ve ever read is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which I read when I was a fourteen-year-old freshman in high school and didn’t understand it at all. But having finished Mr. Fox, I definitely want to dive more deeply into the genre. I love the idea of Mr. Fox’s creative muse coming to life and existing on her own terms – through her sheer force of will. I also adored the short stories that are interwoven through the main narrative. In fact, the book oftentimes felt more like a short story collection than a proper novel. Which I didn’t mind at all.
Book 5: The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. A few key things struck me while listening to the audiobook of The Audacity of Hope. 1) The political gridlock and turmoil that he describes as a US senator in 2006 is nearly identical to what is happening now, over ten years later – the only difference is that, if anything, it’s gotten worse. With only a few exceptions, if you were to hand someone this book or have them listen to Obama read his description of Congress, they’d be hard-pressed to identify what year Obama was talking about. 2) The way he talks about his family is touching and beautiful and everything good in the world. 3) WHY DID YOU HAVE TO GOOOOOOOOOO?????????? (Yes, I know, term limits are a thing. But still.)