September 1, 2020

Summer Reading Roundup

It's finally happened. I've have completed my evolution into a book blogger! This was triggered by seeing someone on Tumblr posting mini reviews of what the read in August and thinking, "Aw, I want to do that!". Then I thought, "Wait. Why not do that?"


These "Reading Roundups" will be different from my Rant Rave Reviews. The RRRs feature not only books, but movies and games too, and often go back years and decades into media that I consumed long ago but that made a lasting impression. Reading Roundups will feature what I read in the past month (or the past season, in this case).


To keep myself from rambling, as I am wont to do, I will stick to this template for each book: title & author, genre, why I read it, what I thought of it, would I recommend it.


Without further ado, here are all the books I read over summer (that I can remember!):


Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls

  • Genre: Fictionalized/novelized biography
  • Why I read it: Arizona book club pic
  • What I thought of it: I’m not a memoir or biography kind of person, so this was far from what I normally read. Even so, I think it was well-written book with a very likable "character" (the author's grandmother) as the female lead. Bonus points for non-offensive portrayals of Catholics (dare I say positive representation?), particularly nuns and Catholic school.
  • Would I recommend it: Yes, for fans of memoir and bios, women's fiction, and the West.


A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

  • Genre: Nonfiction - travelogue
  • Why I read it: Book club pick
  • What I thought of it: Sorry to disappoint everyone and their uncle, but I didn't like it, nor did I find it funny after the first scene at the camping supply store. I was expecting a Patrick-McManus-esque story about meeting weird and charming characters along the Appalachian Trail. Instead, I got the author's self-righteous "humor" in the form of sneering at and belittling others (particularly rural southerners. How clever!).
  • Would I recommend it: No. Sorry, the few interesting facts about the AT don't justify the slog along the self-satisfied trail of Bryson's ego.


The Great Courses, including King Arthur: History and Legend; Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction; Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, and Scandals; and Medical School for Everyone

  • Genre: Nonfiction - lecture series
  • Why I read it: Writing research
  • What I thought of it: These talks by experts in their filed are a great resource for anyone who wants to dip their toes into a subject. What I particularly like is that each "course" is broken into lectures on individual topics. For example, I skipped the parts of the Mystery and Suspense course that didn't have to do with cozies and classic detective fiction, and stopped the King Arthur course once the lecturer had gotten past medieval literature, because I was only interested in the actual legend of Arthur and not modern renditions of it.
  • Would I recommend it: 100%, particularly for writers needing to do research. Your local library likely has these on disk or online.


Sunk Without a Sound: The Tragic Colorado River Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde by Brad Dimock

  • Genre: Nonfiction - unsolved mystery
  • Why I read it: Arizona book club pic
  • What I thought of it: To be fair to the book, I ran out of time and just skimmed it, skipping over the parts about the author recreating the Hyde's Journey and other chapters that seemed unnecessary. Overall, I think the story is interesting, particularly the different theories about what may have happened to the Hydes other than drowning (or that they did drown and Kolb unwittingly destroyed the only evidence). That being said, I'm pretty sure the book could have been about 100 pages shorter and not suffered for it.
  • Would I recommend it: Maybe, if you're really into the Grand Canyon or unsolved mysteries. Otherwise, just read the Wikipedia article about it. 


Criminology for Dummies by Steven Briggs

  • Genre: Nonfiction - criminology
  • Why I read it: I'm a crime nerd, but also for writing research
  • What I thought of it: I liked that the author, a prosecutor, broke down each part of a police department, the arrest process, court proceedings, and so on. He also gave a balanced review of different theories behind what causes crime and how to deal with criminals, presenting the pros and cons of each.
  • Would I recommend it: Yes, particularly in today's climate. Most people don't know anything about policing and criminology, but they talk about it anyway. It drives me nuts!


Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

  • Genre: Folklore
  • Why I read it: Book club pic
  • What I thought of it: It was great! I'm a giant folklore nerd anyway, but found Gaiman's style particularly cool. His turn of phrase and repetition captured the sense that these stories have been told time and time again.
  • Would I recommend it: Absolutely!!!


At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

  • Genre: Horror
  • Why I read it: I was nostalgic for Bloodborne but don’t have a game system, so this was the next best thing.
  • What I thought of it: I liked most of it, though the very middle dragged. The beginning has spooky mystery, and the end has excitement, but Lovecraft feels the need to have the story come to a screeching halt right in the middle to inform us of the Old One's entire history. I'm a less-is-more type of person when it comes to horror.
  • Would I recommend it: Yes. Despite the middle, the rest was quite creepy and enjoyable.


The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft

  • Genre: Horror
  • Why I read it: I'm on an old-horror kick
  • What I thought of it: It was ok. I found it rather predictable, and not just because we all know Lovecraft's shtick by now. Like, if I read this by some random person on r/nosleep, I would still be able to tell exactly what was happening or about to happen at each point. That being said, the final sentence of the story rocked.
  • Would I recommend it: Maybe if you want to get into the Cthulhu Mythos? Like, I wouldn't not recommend it, but it was kind of "meh". 

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