Monday, December 19, 2016

Books I read in November and half of December

I meant to do this in early December, I did. And here we are and it's Christmas week. So I might as well do this now and do the next one early Feb.

It's a tiny bit embarrassing how much of my reading is romance, even though I say it's not my favorite genre. Nice to have found out something about myself. Also, I read less in November but I'm beginning to cover up for it now.

Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai
I hadn't read any Anita Desai except the Village by the Sea when I was in college, and the last few pages of that book were missing (I still remember my disappointment). This book did not disappoint me, meandering around the lives of a family, going to unexpected and still familiar places. Our two protagonists and point of view characters are Tara, the younger sister, the baby of the family who was supplanted by the arrival of their brother. Who was unambitious and only craved a normal life, which she got and seems vaguely dissatisfied with. And Bimla, the older sister, friend and closest companion of awe-inspiring older brother Raja. Raja declares he wants to be a hero when he grows up; Bimla promptly follows suit. Tara says she wants to be a mother, and invites the others' ridicule. Yet as her aunt consoles her, Tara is the one who gets what she wants most unambiguously. Though I found Bimla pretty damn heroic in her determined singledom, her stubbornness, her fierce protectiveness of her family.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
I had started this a few years ago, but I was depressed at the time and couldn't somehow get on with it. Thankfully I kept the book, and this time I was pulled in by its power. The book is an uncompromising attack on beauty standards and racism, especially internalized racism. It's a feminist look at how young girls are stripped of their self-esteem and victimized. And all of this in Morrison's beautifully poetic language.

Just William by Richmal Crompton
I heard of the William series on Twitter a few days ago, and was skeptical. How can a British schoolboy be anything but annoying? But this book was actually great fun. William is like an older British version of Dennis the Menace -- only more interesting. And it's free for the Kindle, so try it out.

Coolie by Mulk Raj Anand
This is a longer novel than Untouchable, following a young boy who is sent off to town to work, and moves from one job to another. It's more of a story, and reads a bit like the episodic sagas of Dickens. But I found Untouchable the stronger story, maybe because I really liked the protagonist Bakha, and he seemed a fully realized, interesting character. Munoo remained a bit elusive for me, even though I spent more pages with him.

Hold Me by Courtney Milan
Milan's latest novel is probably her best so far.  We have an Asian American hero, a Hispanic heroine, and a sensitive portrayal of trans people. But most importantly, we have a hero who is interesting and flawed and good. The heroine is as awesome as all of Milan's heroines -- rather more so.

The Dagger in the Desk by Jonathan Stroud
This short story is part of the Lockwood series and is available free on the Kindle. It's just an episode where Lucy and her companions go ghost-busting, and is a fun, light read.

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