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Thread: The Year in Books: 2016 Edition

  1. #21
    1. The Chimes | 2. Crossing to Safety | 3. North | 4. Reconstructing Amelia | 5. Dragonfly in Amber | 6. Tess of the d'Urbervilles | 7. The Best of Me | 8. Pride and Prejudice | 9. Notes from the Underground | 10. Aesop's Fables | 11. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary | 12. The Running Path | 13. The Rosie Project​ | 14. Angela's Ashes | 15. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies | 16. The Rosie Effect

    17. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - My main reason for visiting this classic is the buzz I was hearing about Scarlett Johansson's narration. Each character has a distinct voice, so that the reading cues (Alice said, etc) are largely unnecessary. I read and listened using the Immersion Reading feature on my Kindle Fire tablet. Very, very good indeed.

    As for the story itself, the thing I remember most about it is its being used as an example in a philosophy class I took in college. Something along the lines of Carroll's illustrating the concept of a property (the Cheshire cat's grin) without its object (the Cheshire cat). But reading it now, I was left with the impression of an object's changing over time, yet being the same object. Alice's various size changes come to mind as the surest expression of that idea. Also, she is not the same girl prior to her adventures, but yet she is. That said, I know I'm likely missing 95% of the novel's meaning but for the moment I'm quite ok with it.


    What I was unprepared for, and which stands out as my favorite part of the book, is that paean to storytelling and dreams that closes the novel. While reading a story has its own merits, I think there's something special and primal about being told a story that resonates. In this respect, Ms. Johansson and Mr. Carroll are keeping that tradition alive.

  2. #22
    1. The Chimes | 2. Crossing to Safety | 3. North | 4. Reconstructing Amelia | 5. Dragonfly in Amber | 6. Tess of the d'Urbervilles | 7. The Best of Me | 8. Pride and Prejudice | 9. Notes from the Underground | 10. Aesop's Fables | 11. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary | 12. The Running Path | 13. The Rosie Project​ | 14. Angela's Ashes | 15. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies | 16. The Rosie Effect | 17. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

    18. Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K. Dick - As with The Man in the High Castle, the emphasis is on making the reader think about the ideas that Dick presents through the novel. While it shares a similar overarching plot (people being denied freedom and/or privacy), there is a decidedly religious tone in Radio Free Albemuth. One of the interesting parts to me is the main characters' (Nicholas Brady's and Philip K. Dick's (yes the author is a character in his own novel)) explanations of their own and their shared experiences. Various theories are put forward, but change as new evidence comes to light. While I enjoyed The Man in the High Castle more, I found Radio Free Albemuth to be quite good and well worth the read.

  3. #23
    1. The Chimes | 2. Crossing to Safety | 3. North | 4. Reconstructing Amelia | 5. Dragonfly in Amber | 6. Tess of the d'Urbervilles | 7. The Best of Me | 8. Pride and Prejudice | 9. Notes from the Underground | 10. Aesop's Fables | 11. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary | 12. The Running Path | 13. The Rosie Project​ | 14. Angela's Ashes | 15. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies | 16. The Rosie Effect | 17. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland | 18. Radio Free Albemuth

    19. Firstlife by Gena Showalter - Showalter takes the premise that life is just a dress rehearsal literally, because she posits an afterlife divided into three realms: Troika, Myriad and Many Ends. Candidates sign on for either of the first two (the first is bathed in sunlight, and considers that free will/individual actions as important; the second is swathed in darkness, and thinks that fate overrides all, and that individuals cannot prevent the grind of its wheels). If, at the end of their Firstlife, a person is Unsigned, they end up in Many Ends, which roughly corresponds to Hell. The competition for spirits runs high as Troika and Myriad have been at war forever (though I don't recall being told why they are at war), and spirits are inducted into each realm's army.

    Apparently critical to the cause (we're told this in the opening pages) is one Tenley "Ten" Lockwood, a 17 year old girl who is confined to the Prynne Asylum. Prynne is designed to help (by any means necessary) its inmates sign to one of the two realms, but Ten isn't having any of it. Fortunately, two super hot guys, one from each realm, are sent to recruit her to their respective causes. Why yes, Teen Harlequin is the publisher, how did you guess?


    I hated the first half of the book, and as I slogged through it I kept hoping it would get better. Fortunately for me, it did, as I liked how the story unfolded in the second half. That's the reason I give the book 2 stars. While I realize it's part of a series (what isn't these days), I don't feel the need to continue on with it.

  4. #24
    1. The Chimes | 2. Crossing to Safety | 3. North | 4. Reconstructing Amelia | 5. Dragonfly in Amber | 6. Tess of the d'Urbervilles | 7. The Best of Me | 8. Pride and Prejudice | 9. Notes from the Underground | 10. Aesop's Fables | 11. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary | 12. The Running Path | 13. The Rosie Project​ | 14. Angela's Ashes | 15. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies | 16. The Rosie Effect | 17. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland | 18. Radio Free Albemuth | 19. Firstlife

    20. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut - Breakfast of Champions I believe is a book that has to be read a few times in order to be fully appreciated. This is my first time through, so I imagine my thoughts will be a bit scattered and incomplete. The ridiculousness and randomness of the novel artfully hides a network of ideas which Vonnegut brings up in various ways throughout the text: creation, creativity, slavery, free will, determinism, pollution etc. Even the book's title, a textual symbol, needs to be unpacked and looked at relative to the story. A good read, but an even better re-read.

  5. #25
    1. The Chimes | 2. Crossing to Safety | 3. North | 4. Reconstructing Amelia | 5. Dragonfly in Amber | 6. Tess of the d'Urbervilles | 7. The Best of Me | 8. Pride and Prejudice | 9. Notes from the Underground | 10. Aesop's Fables | 11. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary | 12. The Running Path | 13. The Rosie Project​ | 14. Angela's Ashes | 15. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies | 16. The Rosie Effect | 17. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland | 18. Radio Free Albemuth | 19. Firstlife | 20. Breakfast of Champions

    21. Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Saenz - A fine coming of age story of a Mexican-American boy in El Paso, Texas in 1987. Aristotle (Ari) Mendoza is fifteen, usually angry or sad, sometimes both, and unwilling or unable to articulate why. He has few friends, and prefers the solitude of the desert for thinking about his life. That is, until he meets Dante Quintana at a local swimming pool and Dante offers to teach him how to swim.

    One of the things I liked best about the book was how Ari was written. He seems to mature as the novel progresses, which I welcomed because I thought he was pretty irritating at the start of the book. Though with that said, I would have liked more introspection on his part even if it was in the form of more journal entries. There are some revelations which, as a reader, I thought, why has this never come up before?


    The characterization of both Ari's and Dante's parents I felt was pretty apt. They care and are as involved (without hovering usually) in their childrens' lives as they can be. There is a candor between them (particularly within Dante's family) that doesn't devolve into friendship - it is always clear who is in charge.


    I've found that the best YA books have had me wishing they were full on literary fiction novels, which is the case here. Then again, I also recognize the value of genre, and that I am clearly (as I've said for all other YA books I've reviewed) I am not the target demographic for it. Still, it's well written with interesting characters and presentation. I understand a sequel will be forthcoming. I may just have to check it out.

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