Saturday, July 2, 2016

June 2016 Wrap-Up

Hello readers and welcome to another monthly wrap-up. This time we tackle the month of June with it's promise of summer, and vacation for those lucky enough not to have a full time job (or is it really that lucky?). Anyway, in the hope of being proactive and clearing my schedule for the week long Summer Read-a-thon 2016, which you should totally follow, I decided not to wait until mid-July to release this wrap-up. June wasn't a particularly successful reading month. I didn't read as many books as I usually do, not to mention the books that I was reading bogged me down. At one point I felt the reading slump start to settle in and I took a break. I'm rambling now and it's time to start the reviews.
  • The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken


For a while now I've been toying with the idea to give up reading ya sci-fi/dystopia because the genre is over flooded now. I decided to give The Darkest Minds a chance since so many people said fantastic things about it.

The book centers on a world in which a mysterious disease infects children before puberty. Many of those children die, but those that live develop extraordinary powers. The government deems these children dangerous and rounds them up into camps. The protagonist of the story is Ruby, a girl placed in Thurmond, a "rehabilitation camp." After escaping the camp, Ruby is on the run with a group of other gifted children, all trying to sort out their lives.

The first 25% of the book is very promising. I enjoyed reading about Ruby's early childhood with her parents in comparison to the horrible conditions of the camp. The premise was an interesting one and I was excited to see what Bracken would do with the world. Sadly, the story devolves into an uninteresting road trip play by play and I had to motivate myself to continue. When I made it through that part of the book, I came across the hint of a love triangle. I was about ready to set the book down and move on, but I stuck it out until the end.After I finished the last page, I realized that I wasn't that invested in the characters and the plot didn't grab me enough to convince me to pick up the sequel. All in all, it was an average read,
  • The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney

I've been interested in Ancient Egyptian culture for the longest time and it's always been my favorite subject in history class. In my free time, I love to watch documentaries about Egypt and it's there that I learned about Hatshepsut and wanted to know more about this female pharaoh. So many of the books that I read only addressed her in passing and when I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it.

Cooney tries to present you with as linear a narrative as possible. The problem is so little is known about her youth and the exact particulars of that time period that it's important to note that a good portion of this book is conjecture. Every reader that picks up this book need to recognize that Cooney makes guesses and assumptions about details of Hateshepsut's life. Granted, they are educated and well researched assumptions. You shouldn't take everything in this book as truth, but in all honesty, this may be as close as we can get.

As for the reading experience, I was captivated the whole way through. I think if you enjoy Ancient Egyptian culture, you will enjoy this book. Cooney's writing is never stuffy, her authorial voice isn't too vocal or distracting, and the linear narrative lets you connect with Hatshepsut just like you would with any fictional character. Should Cooney choose to write any more nonfiction, I would read it in a heartbeat.
  • Northanger Abbey (The Austen Project #2) by Val McDermid

Northanger Abbey is the second book in The Austen Project series, which is a project where a select number of authors modernize all of Jane Austen's books. Last month, I read and loved Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, which is the modernized version of Pride and Prejudice. Naturally, I sought out the modernized version of Northanger Abbey because it's tied with P&P as my favorite Austen novel. If this tells you anything, I based my final Senior Seminar paper on Northanger Abbey.

While I was a bit wary to see how the story would be modernized, I threw myself into the book with no expectations and hoped for the best. Let's just say by the end, I was disappointed. When an author makes a conscious decision to take a work of literature and modernize it, I expect that author to do something creative with the story and adapt it in a meaningful way.

Cat Morland in this novel lives a marginally sheltered life in a small town. When the Allens invite her to attend a festival in Edinburgh, she jumps at the chance. There she meets the Thorpe siblings and Henry Tilney. Now she has to juggle new friendships and a potential romance.

Rather than adapt the book in such a way that plays off the themes and develops the characters even further, the author chose to stick with the exact same story. It seems like all she did was insert the modern equivalents in the appropriate slots. Instead of Tilney joking with Catherine about how girls journal the events in their lives, here Tilney tells Cat that girls always use social media to document everything. This modern Cat doesn't read Gothic novels. She reads vampire novels. So much more of the plot needed to be altered and adapted. Austen's story set in the 1800s does not directly translate well in an assumed 21st century world. These 'modernizations" just don't cut it. The characters came off as one dimensional, the plot was clunky, and the ending was ridiculous. I'm still determined to read every book in The Austen Project series, despite this book.  

  • Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales


Now on the the classic pick of the month, or rather two consecutive months. It took me such a long time to get through this behemoth, which I really didn't expect when I made up my mind to read it. When I bought this collection, I was under the impression that this book had all the fairy tales I was familiar with, just presented in a darker fashion. A few of those tales were, in fact, familiar. That included Snow White, Cinderella, and Rapunzel.

What you need to recognize if you make up your mind to read this book is that it has more than 200 short tales and not all of them are gems. Many of the collected tales are the same stories, just told in a slightly different manner.

Am I saying this is a bad read? Not at all. Most of the stories were engaging, presented a thoughtful moral, and even made me chuckle now and then. My recommendation is that you make this one of the books you casually peruse on dreary days. Don't assume you can just read it straight through like I did.

Those are all of the books that I read during June. There might not have been many of them, but I'm proud of what I did manage to accomplish. Now I think it's time for me to put the computer away and get started on Day 1 of the Summer Read-a-thon 2016 challenge. I hope you will come back tomorrow night for those updates!