June 5, 2012

May Reading Recap

I did pretty well on my reading plan for May:

GATHERING OF WATERS by Bernice L. McFadden - What I knew about this book going in is that it includes the murder of Emmett Till, the young black man who was killed in 1955 in Money, Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. The second half of the book focuses on the event and its consequences, but interestingly, the story begins decades earlier and tracks the lives of several (fictional) families who live in Money. Ghosts also play a role and contribute to the theme of evil and good deeds propagating through the generations. I enjoyed the story and the characters, and I'm interested to read more of McFadden's many novels.

SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY by Mary Robinette Kowal - I found this book as fun and charming as Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, once I finally read it, and I mention that because SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY is modeled on Austen's work. It's written in the same style, with the same kind of humor, a wealthy society setting, carefully selected period language, and a plot that revolves around who will marry whom. Kowal's clever reproduction of Austen adds one new element, the existence of an inventive form of magic.

The magic in Kowal's world is called "glamour", and it's mainly a skill practiced by women -- like needlepoint or watercolor -- for the purpose of beautifying a home or providing drawing room entertainment. This story offers some glimpses into more powerful uses of glamour, and I believe the second book in the series, GLAMOUR IN GLASS, explores this more. Throughout the book, skill with glamour and the use of glamour are important parts of the plot, so the magical element is definitely not just tacked on.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes Austen. Even if you're skeptical about the magic, give it a try. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel. You can even start with the sequel -- Kowal wrote a great essay about how she designed the second book to work on its own.

GONE, GONE, GONE by Hannah Moskowitz - Last year I read INVINCIBLE SUMMER, Moskowitz's latest novel at the time, and I loved the writing, which captured the narrator's emotions in a real, raw way. GONE, GONE, GONE is even more about emotions and how powerful and largely unpleasant they are at age fifteen. The narration alternates between two boys who are tentatively falling in love but hindered by the fact that one of them is still in love with the boy who broke his heart. Or whose heart he broke. The characters are all discovering that life is complicated and uncertain that way.

The story takes place in the Washington D.C. suburbs soon after the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, when snipers terrorized the region with several weeks of random shootings. This creates a harrowing backdrop of fear for the boys' confused romantic feelings. It's an angsty book for sure, but I don't consider that a bad thing. GONE, GONE, GONE is a beautifully written story, and I recommend it.

THE LEGEND OF PRADEEP MATHEW by Shehan Karunatilaka - I've read about a quarter of this novel and will post more about it when I'm finished. So far, it's an entertaining read on a topic I wouldn't normally seek out: the world of professional cricket. The narrator is a retired Sri Lankan sportswriter and a raging alcoholic, and he becomes obsessed with tracking down one of his country's greatest cricket players. The book is the next selection for the Bookrageous book club, and I'm eager to hear the discussion.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Nick Moran at The Millions crunches numbers to answer the question, Are eReaders Really Green?: "Is total eBook adoption -- that is: elimination of the print book -- really an ecologically responsible goal?"

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