mmm… Book Check!
Monday Morning Mid-Month Book Check is a way for us to share what we are reading at the moment, no matter how brilliant, menial, or embarrassing.
I am reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Actually, that’s not the proper title of the book. The proper title is the picture of Earth that you see on the cover. If you look closely, you will notice a little asterisk next to the picture with the corresponding explanation (in this case, the words being used as the title) underneath Bryson’s name on the cover. Since pictures can’t be titles, I guess we will have to make do with words, unless anyone wants to take on that blatant metadata challenge. Anyone?
I’ve been a fan of Bryson’s for a while now, starting with Mother Tongue, which is about the English language and features an entire chapter on the history of swear words. Fascinating, I tell you. For an etymology geek like me, Bryson’s combination of curiosity and a keen sense of the ridiculous made a book that was already of interest into a wildly entertaining read. Bryson’s humor and curiosity have followed him through years as successful writer on travel and the English language to science. The book ostensibly covers “nearly everything” as the title implies, but I’ve only just made it past the creation of the solar system, so I’ve got a ways to go yet. The book is extremely well written and researched but presented in a very accessible way. The chapters are relatively short and are frequently broken up into smaller chunks, which makes this book perfect for bedtime reading – funny and engaging but not overwhelming and presented in digestible portions.
I am currently about halfway through Cast in Fury by Michelle Sagara. Cast in Fury is the fourth novel in Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra. The main character, Kaylin, is a sort of private investigator in a world with a number of species that are relatively at peace with one another, but still negotiating living together. In this volume, Kaylin’s supervisor (a Leonine) is under investigation for murder. While Kaylin is assigned to another case, she does look into the details of what happened with her supervisor and encounters a number of cultural norms that make the case delightfully complex for the reader and not-so-delightfully complex for the character. Sagara has developed a rich world. As a former anthropology student, discovering the variety of social and cultural norms through the plot rather than plain exposition is enjoyable.
I started reading this series several years ago, and when I was pulling together this post I realized that I had somehow skipped the third book. I guess I’ll just have to read that one next! You can read the first chapter of Cast in Fury at the author’s website.
One of the few things that I love as dearly as old books is old photographs. Due to various internet sources, especially the always fabulous mental_floss, I first heard about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs months before it came out. Due to what sounded like an eerily fascinating story, combined with extensive use of an old photo collection, I knew this book would catch my attention. It rather slipped my mind, until it was recently brought to my attention then kindly given to me as a birthday gift. I’m not too far into the book yet, and the adventure is about to begin. Already, though, we have met a teenage boy, Jacob, largely friendless, who has spent his life listening to his grandfather’s stories about monsters and strange characters from his past. After his grandfather is seemingly killed by a monster, Jacob sets out to make sense of his grandfather’s last words and find the truth in what had seemed like fantastical stories from his childhood. This will lead him to an island near Britain, and (I hope) more wonderful photographs interspersed with the story. I’ll admit that it’s a bit slow going, moreso than I had hoped, but there is still plenty of time for the plot to develop in exciting, delicious, and creepily picturesque ways. Check out the trailer here.
For this upcoming month I was asked to choose the book for a speculative fiction book club. Going with the theme of horror (for Halloween), and because it was on my list to read anyway, I selected Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury is more well know for Fahrenheit 451, but I feel like this book better showcases his talents as a storyteller, intricately weaving three stories together. The story is set in the midwest and focuses on two 13-year-old boys, William “Will” Halloway and Jim Nightshade, who are best friends, next door neighbors, and connected by the fact that they were born the same night, but on different days. One dark and stormy night a carnival comes into town, and that’s about as far as I’ve gotten. I’m drawn to the descriptions of the boys, who are the same in so many ways, but are also opposites, one light and one dark. The growing mystery also intrigues me, Bradbury did a fantastic job of building the tension within the story, as well as blending the lyrical storytelling with the movement of the plot.
It must also be said that I’m reading The Sandman graphic novel series by Neil Gaiman. I’m still on the fence about it in many ways, sometimes I finish a chapter and am intrigued, the next chapter I’m disgusted. The artwork is visceral and moving, the story is only so-so (at least in the first one, the second one picked up a bit).