Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review 40: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

This is the last book I read in 2013, and I’m sad to say it ended with a whimper rather than a bang. I started this book a while back, but kept putting it down. (If I start and finish a new book before finishing the one I was reading, that’s never a good sign.)

The story of a small town, murder trial, and lost love, this novel shifts between present day and the recent past on a small island off the coast of Washington after WW2. This story itself is much like the weather of the novel: cold, dreary, and laborious. For me, this was a case of using more words when fewer would do, especially in regard to setting. Also, the motivations of characters were almost telegraphed in their deliberateness and story development seemed obvious so waiting for everything to unfold was tedious. Past: boy meets girl, girl faces stark reality, boy is sad, racism towards Japanese-Americans, WW2. Present: murder trial, still racism towards Japanese-Americans. It seemed like the murder trial would at least have some intrigue but even that played out predictably.

In short: well-written and if you like lots of descriptive detail and predictable action, you might enjoy it but I was bored. But I made it to 40 books this year because if it, so woo!

Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review #39, The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore

Moore, you’ve done it again. This book was laugh out loud hilarious: truly a joy from cover to cover. Many of the characters in this novel first appeared in other books so it would be neat if you could read all the others first and then watch them interact in this odd little world. I had only read one other so most of the characters were knew to me but I loved knowing more back story than was provided. (Read and reviewed, 2010 September 5)

Read this, read it now. I’m going to re-read it around the holidays to give me some perspective around that busy time of year.

(Read and reviewed, December 2012)

And I just completed another re-read, wrapped up at the end of Christmas Day. Irreverent and clever and a reminder no matter your day, things could always be worse if a dumb angel was involved, and El Niño. The characters are thrown together in a comedy of errors, and a final act that takes an unexpected turn. It is the perfect thing to cozy up with after the gifts are open and dinner is behind you

Merry Christmas to all!

(Read and reviewed Dec 25, 2013)

Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review 38 The Absolute Sandman Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman

Real talk: I am too full of Christmas goodness to be any good at a book review. Blame the breakfast casseroles.

In short, Neil Gaiman is a god among men. I had high expectations for Sandman as “American Gods” was my favorite read of the year, and I was not disappointed.

He blends common mythology with his ever-rich imagination for a fanciful and dark tale about the ruler of dreamworld. It isn’t as dark as something like “Preacher” but it has it’s moments that are pretty black.

I’m intrigued by the news that JGL may be working to adapt it for the big screen and I don’t understand how it could be adapted for film, but I remain optimistic.

Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review #37: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This read for me has been a long time coming. Gone Girl was highly acclaimed when it came out, but it jumped up my “must read” list after hearing it so highly praised on my favorite podcast, Literary Disco.

How can I put this? This. Book. Is. Jacked. Uuuuuup. I love a mystery and a thriller, but it has been a while since a book has really gotten under my skin. I read it in two sittings because it is one of those gripping stories you just can’t put down. When I did put it down to get a snack and my phone rang, I about jumped out of my skin.

This book isn’t simply the story of a missing woman: it is a descent into calculating madness, a fractured marriage, and the darkness of humanity. Beyond that, it also shines a harsh light on the media’s role in missing persons cases, and our complicit participation as both the audience, and the story creators. With the 24 hour news cycle, the need to sensationalize and sustain that sort of frenzy leaves a lot of unanswered questions in its wake. The constant churning, and our desire for more more more creates the problem, and for those in the fray, it’s an avalanche of half truths.

The structure of the novel is fascinating, as the husband and wife tell their own stories, at different points in time. It creates an amazing level of suspense as you watch two people in their own words, become stretched past the breaking point: the ultimate “he said, she said.” It is really as good as everyone says it is, though I’m still unsure of the third act. But I can’t stop thinking about it, or suggesting it to other people, so that to me is the mark of a good read.

Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review #36 Naked by David Sedaris

David Sedaris is obviously a great writer. I have a few friends who swear by him, so I figured I’d jump back in to see what all the hubbub was about. I previously read “Holidays on Ice” but it didn’t make much of a lasting impression.

The realism in this memoir is larger than life. Sedaris has composed a series of essays that skip around in his life, though there is a thin thread of forward motion as it traces moments in rough historical continuity. It is almost too bright in detail because the stories trotted out from Sedaris’ life are not inherently funny. They are hard stories, and awkward stories, but his usage of language and vantage point manage to take a sad or poignant moment and give it the edge it needs to make it palatable to the reader. What someone else would milk for sympathy he just states in a matter of fact way. Before you realize it, you are laughing at something that if told to you by a different person, might make you cry.

The absurdity of his life is striking, and I can see why it is so popular, though it’s not really my cup of joe. If you enjoy squirmy absurdist comedy, than give it a look. But if like me, you are the kind of person that strongly sympathizes with others you may like it, but it may be a hard read.

Ashlie’s #BookExchange (Received Gift)

Super excited about my books, and the coolest damn mug ever, which has titles of banned books on it, including one of my favorite books of all time, 1984!!

I really have been wanting to read Orson Scott Card for a while but was hesitant to spend money because of his politics, so now I can read, guilt free. (It’s all about the ability to rationalize.) :)

Big thanks to Erin, my gift buddy, and Jen for organizing this.

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Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review #35: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Notes from 2011:

LOVED. THIS. SERIES. I am recommending it to everyone I know. I think it was well written, compelling, entertaining, and simply wonderful, and I am sure I will read it again in the future. I was worried I would be let down by the final installment, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. All Hail Suzanne Collins!

Notes from Thanksgiving 2013:

Again, I sped through this one. It’s the day after Thanksgiving and I got up, got some pumpkin dip leftovers, and read this book cover to cover. I stand by both decisions.

I’ve heard conflicting opinions on the third installment of the series from friends. They felt it was uneven, and could have stood more editing and had a lot of unnecessary exposition. I couldn’t disagree more! It was different than the first two installments, but I stand behind it, and it in fact might be my favorite. It is bittersweet, and I can’t imagine how they are going to film done parts of it, but I found it to be a solid, if not surprising, end to this great trilogy.