It’s nice to take a little break from decluttering to do my January book club! January has been a crazy crazy month. We had three amazing weddings, started back at work, had to get a new car, I redesigned (or at least started to) my blog aaaaand I’m midway through my #icandeclutter challenge and another very exciting project which I will share with you soon.
And through all of that, I managed to get through some really great books. Here’s what I read in January:
Excursion to Tindari and Voice of the Violin (crime/detective)
Inspective Salvo Montalbano is the head of the police precinct in the fictional town of Vigata, Sicily. He must deftly juggle police politics, mafiosa and incompetent coworkers whilst solving a series of perplexing murders and dodging his long-distance lover.
I started reading the Inspector Montalbano series on a recommendation from a bookseller, and I really enjoy it. Camilleri really captures both the beauty and the barrenness of Sicily, and his descriptions of food are mouthwatering. The mysteries are engaging, although I never find them to be the best part of the books. Instead, I love seeing the ways in which Montalbano manages to negotiate the many human interactions he faces in the course of his investigations.
The books are so easy to read, and the translations from the original Italian/Sicilian are beautifully done. This leads to my one gripe with the books: they are so short that I can easily get through one in a few hours, but they retail for over $20 here. Not a great investment.
Free to Fly (memoir)
Evelyn M Douglas
In her first book, author Evelyn Douglas describes the extreme turn that her life took when her husband of many years told her that he had committed corporate fraud. Evelyn tells the story of how she was able to get through this difficult time and remake her life with grace and compassion, and shares her advice for others facing similar difficult situations.
This book was written by a dear friend of mine, so it is a bit hard for me to review objectively. I can only imagine the work that must have gone into this very personal book, and the emotional commitment it must have taken.
Free to Fly is extremely readable – it feels as though you are having a conversation with Evelyn. I was struck several times at how brave she is to bare her innermost feelings to the world, including her friends and family. It gives a beautiful insight into her compassion and strength, and demonstrates that no matter how well people might be ‘keeping it together’ or how perfect their lives may seem, each person has their own struggles to face.
Divergent (young adult)
The day before Beatrice must choose which of five factions she will spend her adult life in, she undergoes a test that shows that she is not ideally suited to any one faction. Instead, she discovers that she is ‘divergent’, a dangerous and uncertain label. Beatrice is fighting to remain in the faction that she chooses, competing against peers and friends, when she discovers a sinister plot to overthrow the government…
Divergent is one of those books that I have very mixed feelings about (you might say my feelings are divergent). I enjoyed it very much – it was readable, the story was engaging and the romance was quite thrilling! However, it was clearly aimed at a young audience, and felt a bit more juvenile than, say, The Hunger Games, which it is often compared to. The story was a little simplistic at times.
Something that annoyed me was that I felt like Divergent had a Christian agenda, and that drives me crazy. I felt the same thing with Twilight, and it makes me so angry to think of all the young adults reading these books and potentially soaking up what I consider to be quite damaging messages. What was it specifically in Divergent that bothered me? It was the portrayal of Erudite – the learners – as the bad guys, while Abnegation – the selfless – was elevated. Obviously this is just my opinion, but there you go. It also annoyed me that both the main characters, coming from an abnegation background, were uncomfortable with physical contact and were virgins. We get it, Veronica Roth. You can only be a good person if you save having sex for when you find true love. Eh, whatevs. I tend to take these things a little too seriously.
The Fourth Bear (fantasy/detective)
Jack Spratt is on the case again in this sequel to The Big Over Easy, investigating the disappearance of Goldilocks, a pro-bear reporter who was about to break a large story on competitive cucumber growing. Meanwhile, the Gingerbreadman, a homicidal maniac, is on the loose again, and Jack keeps ending up in his path…
Jasper Fforde is a bit of a genius. His books combine fairy tales, classic literature and police detective work in an impeccable melange of humour and mystery. The Fourth Bear was a pleasure to read: the mystery was suitably mysterious, and all the loose ends were tied up. I couldn’t ask for anything more. This is one author I would love to read more of.
Pinkerton’s detective agent Frederick Chase is on the trail of a criminal mastermind at the Reichenbach Falls right after the death of Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis, Moriarty, when he meets Inspector Athelney Jones. The two combine forces to stymie the ascent of this new master criminal before he plunges London into chaos.
I found this book to be o.k. for the most part. It was hard to get into for about 2/3 of the story. Not bad, but not great. I had really been looking forward to it, so it was a bit disappointing.
The I got to the end. There was a twist. The author took a huge gamble, and it failed spectacularly for me. I can’t talk about it without giving it away, but yeah. Not cool.
Also, there was a loose end which was never resolved – if you’ve read it, I’m talking about the coughing man. Who is he??? Very sloppy. Plus Sherlock Holmes didn’t once appear in the story, not at all. How does this even qualify as a Sherlock Holmes story? I don’t know. Not happy Jan.
Yes Please (humour)
Amy Poehler shares her insights on career, divorce, children, awards and life in general in this open, touching and funny memoir.
I can’t say I knew much about Amy Poehler before reading this book – I have seen only a couple of episodes of SNL, and none of Parks and Rec. However, I have an urge to get started now, because Poehler is really quite inspiring.
I laughed out loud and cried real tears whilst reading this book – that’s pretty impressive, because I am usually a robot reader. I loved loved loved her casual feminist outlook, and her motto: good for her, not for me. I want to incorporate that motto into my life. She is a successful woman with an amazing career, and who has children, and who is a feminist, and who supports other women. My new hero.
And that’s that for January. In February, I am going to try to get through The Pelican Brief by John Grisham, The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas and The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss, among some others. Read along with me if you have any interest in those titles, and don’t forget to comment below. :)