Book blogging

For the past two weeks I’ve barely read anything, and I’m about 15 books behind on reviews. How does this happen even when I’m not in school?! Well, for one thing, I had a wedding to plan! Just got married to my read-aloud partner of 7+ years. ūüôā The first book I read him was¬†Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, and I read it over the phone because he was living in a different city at that time. After I finished relevant chapters, I would send him the appropriate Harry & the Potters song. Now we’ve read Harry Potter together three times and a bunch of other books too. (Extra appropriate to mention this as it is Harry Potter’s birthday today and we won first place in a ~20 team Harry Potter trivia contest last night!!)

So, happy news ūüėÄ

But I’m also wondering about how to deal with my book blog when things keep piling up. Like maybe coming up with an easier formula for my reviews so I hit on the important aspects but can still move it along. I will probably experiment with that in the future, and if you have any recommendations or tips about how you fit everything in that you want to say, I’m glad to hear them! A lot of times when I’m reading a book I keep a sticky note in back with pros, cons, things I want to mention, but then I find that it makes it take longer to write a review, or the review gets a little too long if I try to hit everything on my list. In other words, it can get unmanageable. I want to keep it manageable because I really do enjoy keeping track of books this way.

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Title: My Cousin Rachel
Author: Daphne Du Maurier
Genre: Fiction / gothic 

Rating: 5 / 5

Goodreads

After a few bad to mediocre books, I knew I needed something good, and I had a hunch that Dame Daphne wouldn’t let me down. And she sure didn’t. This is my favorite book of the year so far although it’s true, I have only read 20.

Anyway this book is so good. I don’t even know what to say about books this good. They just put my brain in a sort of catatonic state of “good, me likely,” maybe somewhat similar to maybe eating a really big, delicious piece of chocolate mousse cake.

So, this is a gothic novel, and like other gothic novels, it involves a big house and property. In this case we also have a dead person, an unreliable narrator, and tons of ambiguity. I loved it so much! The first chapter is totally foreshadowy and sets the perfect ominous tone, the narrator kind of cops to something, obliquely, but we’re not sure what exactly it is. Then the story starts, pretty much from the beginning, outlining the life of the narrator, the orphaned-and-brought-up-by-his-cousin Phillip, heir to a Cornish estate. Phillip is somewhat reclusive, only really wanting the company of said cousin, Ambrose, and both Phillip and Ambrose scorn women and the married life as being something unnecessary and without interest. That is, until Ambrose’s poor health sends him abroad for part of the year. On one of these annual vacations to the Continent, Ambrose meets someone…his cousin (and Phillip’s cousin) Rachel.

And ohhhh my god does it ever get good from there! Read it read it just read it!

I love the writing style, I love the suspense, the suspicion, the horror she can evoke. I love the story. I love what du Maurier says about people–or maybe I don’t, it’s not exactly pleasant at times, but it does feel so true. It’s all really quite simple I suppose, but du Maurier’s magic is that she can she can evoke a tortured mind so well, where nothing seems simple. And is it really all that simple, in the end? Only deceptively. Like I said before, it’s quite ambiguous, so while I may have my own personal idea of the “truth,” there is plenty of evidence to argue another angle. I just love books like this, and¬†My Cousin Rachel is one of my favorites.

Slade House by David Mitchell

Title: Slade House
Author: David Mitchell
Genre: Fiction / horror / fantasy

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Goodreads

This was another one of those “thought it looked interesting and shortish and my university library had a copy.” It’s kind of gothic in that there’s a big old creepy house, but I feel like it would appeal more to people who like vampire stories, because that’s basically what it is.

It’s kind of like short stories–a chapter for each character, a complete story in itself, almost–but they are far too interconnected to be just short stories; it’s definitely a novel. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel all that developed either.

I think this would be a great October read. It’s spooky, but it’s not actually all that¬†scary–or at least, not the kind of scary that keeps me up at night or makes me worry in any way. It’s atmospheric and sets a good, creepy tone. It’s about haunted houses and dark magic and some predatory Victorian twins. So yeah, perfect for Halloween times.

The writing was quite good, but I don’t think the story was enough to sustain a book, even if it is kind of short. At first it’s kind of going nowhere, with vague yet heavy-handed foreshadowing for the first three chapters–same story, different people. Then in the fourth chapter, there’s an info dump, and suddenly the fifth chapter wraps it all up, introducing other players/movements it wasn’t even really possible to guess at prior to the chapter, tidily wrapping things up–a little too deus ex machina for me. And anticlimactic. I know that this book is apparently tied somehow to¬†The Bone Clocks–maybe it all would have made a little more sense if I’d read that first, but I didn’t, and the book isn’t labeled as being part of “The Bone Clocks whatever”–I learned they were related after finishing it, from a review. So. Still think it’s kind of lazy.

I just didn’t feel like there was much of a point to it. I enjoyed reading it, especially in the beginning–even parts of the last two disappointing chapter¬†were great. But the reason it “only” gets 3.5 stars despite being a greater reading experience than that is that, ultimately, it just wasn’t very satisfying. And not even unsatisfying in a satisfying way. It felt like it was trying to be satisfying but was kind of contrived on that score.

Definitely read it to give yourself a eerie atmosphere. It is well written and pretty interesting–but the way the whole thing was wrapped up was just…a little less than interesting. Based on the writing, I know the author could have done better with the ending, and I wish he had chosen to. I know it sounds like I’m being kind of harsh, but 3.5 stars is halfway between “I liked it” and “I really liked it,” so… you know… I liked it.

From the Archives Friday: The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus

I’ve been reading up a storm this summer, but it hasn’t really translated over to reviews, unfortunately. I’m about seven or eight reviews behind at this point and I’m not sure I’ll get them all written unless I have a sudden stroke of inspiration (not out of the question).

 

 

Title: The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus
Author: John Emsley
Genre: Nonfiction / science

Goodreads

Original rating: 4 / 5

Another book I checked out of the Santa Cruz library because I thought it looked interesting. I remember it as a fairly quick read with some good information.

What I remember about the book: Nothing stands out in terms of facts I learned at this distant remove (I read it about 10 years ago). I do remember taking notes from it at the time, which means I thought it was pretty interesting and had information worth remembering.

How I felt about it at the time: I¬†liked it but it didn’t make that big of an impression, apparently.

How I feel about it now:¬†I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about phosphorus. Beyond that, the writing and information don’t stand out to me enough for me to recommend it in a general sense.

Verdict:¬†I’m going to lower my rating a bit. These days, a 4 star book is one that I really liked; often a 4 star book will be the best one I have read for a while. At the time, I said that this was an interesting book but I did have some criticisms for it, making me think it’s more likely a 3 star rather than a 4 star book.

Original rating: 4 / 5
Updated rating: 3 / 5

My original review under the cut.

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