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Reading check ins 2020 > Week 22 Check In

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message 1: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 875 comments Mod
Hi everyone!

Can't believe it's almost June. This year both feels like it's been forever, and also flying.

This week I finished:

Discount Armageddon - popsugar book by an author who's written more than 20 books. I liked it, fun concept of monster hunters who prefer to try to relocate/reason with cryptids before moving straight to extermination. I love Seanan McGuire, hadn't gotten to this series yet.

Westside - this is my popsugar book with a map, and read harder mystery with a victim that isn't a woman. I liked this, was a fun noir mystery with some dark fantasy mixed in. Like the idea of a detective specializing in tiny mysteries, even if this one blew way up.

Currently reading:

The Count of Monte Cristo - still plugging away, a couple chapters in between each book. Got into the 700s now, end is starting to be kind of in sight. If I squint.

Turn Coat - audio re-read while i do stuff

Green Rider - one of my book flood books! I am enjoying so far. counting it for popsugar book published in the 20th century.


I'll borrow from popsugar again,

Do you like retellings? If so, what do you look for?

I personally love them! I like fairy tale ones in particular, but I'll go into any really. I prefer it if i actually know the story being retold, at least passingly, so I can see where it follows and where it deviates, but if it looks good enough I'll read it anyhow.

Some recent greats were The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Circe.

I don't love it when the retelling deviates so far that i don't get why it's there at all. I read Gingerbread earlier this year, and was kind of disappointed. there were lots of references to Hansel and Gretel, but I didn't really get why. The basic structure didn't seem to follow any version of the story I knew, it felt like they were just there so it could be called a retelling. It's possible it's referencing some other version of the story i don't know, but I'm dubious. At no point did a brother sister (or even sister sister or brother brother or anything like that) go into the woods and get lost and get captured by a witch. Feels like those are the basic bones of a Hansel and Gretel story. If you don't even nod to that, not sure what the point of putting in the references at all.

message 2: by CJ (new)

CJ Aaand this week has taken a turn for the much warmer. I am not a fan. It will get to a point when I read more because I just don't want my laptop on because of the heat though.

I just finished Oliver Twist today. And as much as I enjoyed it I also found it pretty hard going towards the end.

I'm switching it up with a romcom and started The Flatshare. I don't read them too often, but I was looking for something lighter in the supermarket and this one I'd heard good things about, and was the best option I could find. I've only read a handful of pages.

I just picked out Dune for my audio credit (whether I keep paying for those once I can get books easier is unsure, I might just work out what the library selection is like and try that instead). I've not started it yet, but I'm mildly concerned keeping up with the new names etc. is going to harder with a more complex book. We'll see I guess.

QOTW: The only specific retelling I recall reading is The Penelopiad, but I really enjoyed it. How much of that was it being a Margaret Atwood book, how much being my Greek History adjacent degree interest, I'm not sure.

I do really like the idea of retellings and I've definitely got my eye on a few, especially more ancient stories (because the originals of those are definitely hard going, I've read a few), and maybe of stories I'm less familiar with they might be fun, especially if it's something less accessible language-wise etc.

message 3: by Megan (new)

Megan | 236 comments I'm with you, CJ - not a hot weather fan! So I'll have no problem continuing to stay home as much as possible during the summer - more reading time!

At last check in, I was reading Step on a Crack for IRL book club #2, which I really enjoyed - the cover blurb about readers liking this detective as much as Alex Cross held true for me, and I'll definitely be checking out more of the series.

Next up was Joyland, which had been on my list for quite a while. It's pretty much the perfect summer book - short, light, set at a beach/amusement park, you know the narrator is going to make it since he talks about subsequent events in his life throughout the story.... :) So if you want something spooky to take to the socially distanced beach, this is a good one.

I went back to James Patterson after that with Lost, which started relatively slowly (for that kind of book), and I was initially concerned that it was trivializing human trafficking with the way it was playing out - but it really got going after it moved more into breaking up the trafficking rings, since it's a detective story and focusing on the victims wasn't really a good fit with the tone. It ends on quite the cliffhanger, which is unusual for one of Mr. Patterson's first in a series, so I'll have to track that down to see what happens next.

I wanted something light and without depressing real-life issues after that, so I read Misfits, which I'd heard quite a bit about when one of the IRL book clubs read another book that was described as being quite similar. They were similar, but I liked Misfits' vibe of having the girls have relationships independent of fighting over boys - even when they fight, it's about bigger picture stuff. It's definitely a kids' book, but enough fun that I think many other adults would enjoy it as a quick read.

I'm now reading The Swans of Fifth Avenue, which I had picked up on sale a while back without even looking at what it's about since I love Melanie Benjamin so much. It turns out to be about Truman Capote and the circle of rich ladies he was friends with in New York in the late 60's, which is not a topic that would normally grab me, but it's well-written enough to draw me in, and I'm still not 100% sure where it's headed halfway through (I mean, in terms of the interactions of the characters - obviously since it's based on real events I know what ultimately happened to everyone involved)

QOTW: I like retellings and adaptations if they have something to add that improves or comments on the original. Like the Disney Twisted Tales, which usually give the characters more agency than the movies they're based on; or Once and Future/Sword in the Stars, which use King Arthur and Merlin in a really meta way to look at the social issues involved; or the Dorothy Must Die series that continues the story and also comments on how the original characters might have been affected by the original series' events.

What I'm less a fan of are retellings that change so little from the original as to come across as plagiarism, or change characters or plot elements without any purpose other than to be able to say they changed something so it isn't plagiarism. I will refrain from citing examples, but there have been many in recent years, particularly in the YA world.

I am also not a fan of "uncredited retellings" - stories that are clearly based on something else to the point of appearing to be fan fiction with the character names changed, but do not directly refer to or credit the original work. I also won't call out specific examples, but there are some books that I've mentioned in past check-ins where the author was clearly a BIG fan of Star Wars, Labyrinth, Myst, or some other copyright-protected IP. There is some amazing fan fiction out there, and I wish there were ways for the writers to be compensated for all the time they put into writing it - but this is not the way to go about that. As much as it financially worked out for Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray, both of which, for all of their other issues, at least bothered to establish some unique characters, settings, and plot points for themselves - which is more than you can say for some of the more blatant "homages".

message 4: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 875 comments Mod
haha I'm on team "gimme the warm weather", i love it toasty. I like sunshine and hammocks and going kayaking. Although I'll say I like it in the mid to low 80s/high 70s, once it starts pushing or passing 90 that's a bit much. I still will take that over cold, though. Honestly getting into nicer weather is all that's keeping me sane right now, being able to go running or sit on the patio or go kayaking. Not looking forward to this winter if things spike again as expected.

message 5: by Megan (new)

Megan | 236 comments Sheri, you live in the state up north, right? It seems like you guys are usually several degrees cooler than us, so maybe the summers aren't quite as intense there. Although we've had a few decent ones lately where it stayed in the 70's and 80's instead of the 90's and 100's - so if it's like that, I might at least go into the front yard a couple times or open a window. :)

message 6: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 875 comments Mod
I live in SE Michigan, our weather is all over the place! Right now it's about 75 so it's perfect haha. But come July or August it could easily get into the 90s. I do admit that's a bit over toasty even for me, but i'll still go out for a lap around the block or pull my hammock into the shade.

message 7: by Sarah (last edited May 28, 2020 12:58PM) (new)

Sarah Pace (space1138) | 127 comments The big news this week is that my library finally re-opens for curbside service next Thursday. I may be in the first state to fully re-open, but many businesses and establishments are still being slow and cautious about blowing the doors wide open, which is appreciated. So next week I get a new influx of reading material, plus Space Opera, so I can join in the fun over in the book club discussions.

Foundryside unfortunately fell a bit flat for me. I loved the author's setup and his sense of world-building, and I can definitely appreciate why so many people love this book. But the characters and dialog felt a bit shallow in places. When a baddie goes down shrieking "Noooo!!!! I deserved [the aim of their scheme]!!!!" it really feels more melodramatic than I care for in an otherwise serious read.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory came highly recommended by a number of people a few years back, but I've been put it off as my family dealt with a sudden death. I finally had a chance to read it and really enjoyed it. The author has many thought provoking things to say about the culture of death and the American funeral industry, all delivered with a delightfully dark and snarky sense of humor. Plus I just really love behind-the-scenes glimpses of establishments and industries like this. I have the author's follow-up Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death underway, and so far it's just as good. Both definitely take being in the right frame of mind for, though!

Part way through The Two Towers. So so sooooo good!

QOTW - I'm not a huge fan of fairy tales, so I haven't read too many re-tellings. That said, I do really enjoy unique twists on the Arthur saga though; especially stuff like The Camolud Chronicles that don't try to modernize it or bend it unrecognizably out of shape, but still provide a fresh look at the story.

message 8: by Jen (new)

Jen (piratenami) | 215 comments I am really not a fan of hot weather either. 60s & 70s is fine. 80+, not so much. Today it's going to be in the 70s, but it sounds like it's going to dip back down into 60s again next week. I've noticed around here, June and even July are usually pretty mild, while September is a beast, weather-wise. As much as I enjoy WFH right now, I kind of hope we're back in the office (with AC) before the worst of the summer months hit.

This week, I finished Witchmark, which I loved. I'm counting it as my Popsugar book that won an award in 2019 (World Fantasy Award 2019). I loved the world-building, the magic system was interesting, and I enjoy a good, slow-burn romance, so this was right up my alley. I'm really looking forward to reading the sequel, even though I know it focuses on a different main character. I just really want more of this interesting world and story.

Currently reading Wayward Son, since it's due back to the library soonest. Right now, I have it set as my Popsugar book with a main character in their 20s, because I think the main characters are at least twenty now that they're in university. If they're not, it can always be my book I meant to read in 2019, too. :)

QOTW: I do like retellings, but it depends on how they're done. I think there's also a fine line between an homage to something, and a straight up repaint of an existing property/story. I like looking for retellings that put a twist on something, whether that's genre or setting or something else. Like, Megan mentioned Once & Future and I haven't read the whole book, but my partner was listening to it on audio and I've caught about half of it so far. I love the clever sci-fi twists on Arthurian legend. Some other retellings I enjoyed have been the Once Upon a Con series (book 1: Geekerella), which are contemporary YA romances that include aspects of different fairy tales revolving around a sci-fi convention.

message 9: by CJ (new)

CJ re: weather. And I'm in the UK so I just had to translate all the Fahrenheit temps into Celsius! Today my no a/c but window open (because UK) bedroom hit 79f and I wasn't happy. I'm fine up to about 75f, but once it ticks over that I get uncomfortable quickly.

message 10: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca | 158 comments Sarah, my library is opening, too! WOOOO real books!

This week I finally read The Night Circus. It was just not really my thing, I guess. It reminded me in some ways of A College of Magics, which I also did not love.

I then read A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea. This one was absolutely my thing. It's a fascinating look at the author's time doing linguistic anthropology fieldwork. I knew I was in for a good time when he described an Australian anthropologist as "an expansive, hard-drinking man of modest hygienic inclination." I also really appreciated his addressing some of the problematic aspects of anthropology, for which there aren't always clear answers.

QOTW: I generally like fairy tale/myth retellings. I agree that they need to have something to add to, or say about, the original story, making me think about it in a different way.
I don't really like retellings based on actual events. For example, I read The Other Einstein. I thought it would be a largely true recounting of history from a new perspective, but it suggests that Einstein stole his work from his wife, without any actual historical basis. I guess that sort of thing could be interesting to think about, but it doesn't seem fair to the actual people involved.

message 11: by Jen (last edited May 28, 2020 06:23PM) (new)

Jen (piratenami) | 215 comments To Rebecca's point about disliking retellings based on actual events, I just remembered something I saw the other day (not trying to bring up politics at all). Has anyone else heard of this new book that just came out, Rodham, that's basically a "what if" novel about Hillary Clinton?

I don't necessarily mind retellings of history about or involving famous people, but it leaves a really bad taste in my mouth that there's a fictionalized re-imagining about someone who's actually still alive. Not only that, it changes her history to imagine what might have happened if she'd made different choices, almost like real person fanfic. Someone tell me I'm not alone in thinking that's just... not respectful, and not right, regardless of how you might feel about the person personally.

message 12: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 875 comments Mod
I’ve heard the theories that Einstein’s wife potentially helped him in his work, she was apparently the only one in his mathematics course who ever scored higher than him. But that’s a big leap to “stole all her work”.

message 13: by Shel (new)

Shel (shel99) | 264 comments Mod
Last week I was busy racing through the first five books of the Wings of Fire series by Tui Sutherland. I finished the fourth and fifth book, and since that ended a major story arc I am taking a pause to read a few other things before going on. I then read the second and third books of the Invisible Library series, The Masked City and The Burning Page. I'm finding this series the perfect kind of escapism for the moment. It's engaging without being too thinky, but meaty enough that it's not just pure fluff. Of course the inevitable love triangle is being set up, which I could do without, but it's not TOO much of a focus so I'll live with it for the sake of the rest of the story.

QOTW: I don't have strong feelings about retellings one way or another - I don't specifically seek them out, but I've read some good ones. This fall I read Circe by Madeline Miller and thought it was fantastic. But I recently tried After Alice by Gregory Maguire (who also wrote Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West) and the first few chapters bored me to tears.

message 14: by Shel (new)

Shel (shel99) | 264 comments Mod
Oh, and I also just started Wintersmith with my third grader, after finishing up The Princess Bride. He loved the book as much as he loved the movie! And we are both looking forward to more mischief with the Nac Mac Feegles.

message 15: by CJ (new)

CJ I blasted through The Flatshare in two days. This is definitely one of the reasons I don't read many romance or comedy romance books: I read them too fast and my wallet and bookshelves would never cope. Plus I prefer sf/f and other things.

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