Just Giblets

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 10 & 9

19th January 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 10 & 9

After Alice#10 – After Alice by Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire has an extensive bibliography, but he has made a name for himself by reinterpreting certain important fairy tales and other works of fantasy, most notably, the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. He returns to this milieu with After Alice, an inventive and enjoyable read that posits, “what if Alice wasn’t the only little girl to tumble down the rabbit hole?”

In an effort to elude her harried governess, young Ada pursues her friend Alice right down the rabbit hole. She then proceeds to have an adventurous afternoon with many of the characters made famous by Alice’s journey as she tries to find her friend and somehow return home. Meanwhie, Alice’s sister Lydia must deal with her household… a widower father, the cranky staff, a some visitors, including the handsome Mr. Winters, and Charles Darwin himself. Add to that Ada’s harried governess who is frantically trying to find her charge, and the fact that Lydia realizes that her sister is missing as well, and it’s hard to tell which young lady’s adventures are more madcap.

Love May Fail#9 – Love May Fail by Matthew Quick
You might accuse Matthew Quick of the same sentimentality that protagonist Portia Kane is slammed for in reviews of her first novel in Love May Fail. But while Quick explores redemption and optimism, his lovely novel is heartfelt, complex, and a delight to read. I often say, “Just because a movie/book makes my cry, doesn’t mean it’s any good,” can also be written as, “Just because a movie/book makes me cry, doesn’t mean it’s not good.” Love May Fail explores the idea of the human spirit returning from crushing blows to contribute beauty and joy to the world. A theme that may sound trite, but in Quick’s hand is powerful and rewarding.

Told from four different points of view, Quick inhabits each convincingly. His supporting characters, particularly a particularly strident nun, add color and depth to an already entertaining read. Love May Fail picks up the strands of The Good Luck of Right Now in creating complex, damaged characters who struggle to do better, and sometimes fail, but often succeed. Love May Fail will hopefully restore, or remind the reader of the power of humanity.

 

posted in Nonsense | at 8:45 am | 0 Comments
18th January 2016
by Michael

2015, The Year in Books — a Few Observations and a Stellar Ongoing Series

2015 was not a good year when it comes to me and reading. I read the lowest number of books in 2015 that I can remember. Honestly, I barely broke 20, including two plays and two graphic novels. I plan on doing better in 2016, but if the beginning of January is any indication, I’m not off to a good start!

Science/Speculative Fiction and short stories did well in 2015, and a couple of favorite authors released new books. No non-fiction this year, and sadly, no books about bees. The good thing is that nearly all the books I read this year were good reads.

Before launching into my Top 10 I would like to mention those books that didn’t make the list, but are worth reading, then call out a fantastic continuing collected edition that I’m not including in the list because of the serial nature, but is always a great read.

howHow to be both by Ali Smith – Ali Smith’s complex novel explores relationships and art. It transcends time and space, bringing together a young woman in contemporary times who recently lost her mother and is trying to make sense of her life through a particular little-known painting that she loved; and the original artist of that painting whose story unfolds in a unique manner, paralleling that of the main character.

 

 

Worlds Gone ByWorld gone by by Dennis Lehane – Dennis Lehane wraps up his Joe Coughlin stories with a visceral burst of blood and crime in World Gone By. Is there honor among thieves? This is a moral conundrum that Lehane tackles firmly in his latest, finely written novel. Family is at the heart of World Gone By, as Joe still reels from the loss of his wife ten years past, and struggles to raise his son in a dangerous world that he claims to have retired from.

 

MeatspaceMeatspace byNikesh Shukla – Nikesh Shukla has created a fun, fast-paced tale for this latest generation, the one that lives their entire life online. Meatspace refers to the real world, the one where people interact face-to-face, and where things can get messy, complicated and emotional. The novel and its revelations unfold relatively smoothly, and Shukla’s voice is authentic and captivating. If there is one flaw it’s that Kitab’s struggle with his doppelganger goes on one round too long, and because of that, Aziz’s journey occasionally eclipses Kitab’s, but it all wraps together beautifully in the end.

 

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell – Sweet romantic novel about Georgie, who gets a chance for her big break in comedy writing for her own television show, even as her marriage veers dangerously close to going off the rails. While at times Landline feels little formulaic or trite, there is some real emotion behind the writing, and author Rainbow Rowell has a good command of language that makes this entertaining read a little more than a diverting trifle.

 

The Buried GiantThe Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro – Kazuo Ishiguro tackles fantasy to tell this parable about the benefits of time erasing pain and betrayal, yet sometimes having a more difficult time with vengeance and retribution. Ishiguro starts off slow, but as the journey ensues, and the purpose of the quest starts to take shape, The Buried Giant takes on a powerful momentum, until its inexorable and sobering conclusion.

 

 

A Reunion of GhostsA Reunion of Ghosts – Judith Claire Mitchell – Despite the dark themes running through her novel, Mitchell is funny, and the distinct voices of Lady, Vee and Delph are funny too. Added to the humor and the family drama, there’s some rich history woven into this novel, with the afore-mentioned great-grandfather being a brilliant scientist and contemporary of Albert Einstein, who is a character in the family story. Mitchell weaves these elements together skillfully creating a novel that’s both fun and sobering.

 

Saga, Voume 5Also read this year were the next two volumes of Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ outstanding ongoing series, Saga. While the saga of Saga continues to be compelling, complex, entertaining and gorgeous, there comes that point in every ongoing series where the dramatic tension starts to seem forced, and situations are set up that have a slight feeling of, what can we do to our protagonists next? Fortunately, Vaughn is a talented enough writer to keep writing great stories even if the larger story arc start to buckle a little.

In volume 4, Hazel is now a toddler and narrating a difficult time in her parents’ lives. Marko and Alana, members of two warring races, find their relationship drifting apart as they try to keep food on the table. Meanwhile, their enemies draw closer, and their friends prove unreliable

Saga, Volume 4Volume five sees the completion of Yuma’s time in the series, and that’s too bad. She was a fascinating
character, both visually and storywise, and I’ll miss her.

All-in-all, despite a slight dip from 5 to 4 stars, it’s hard to argue that Saga is one of the best ongoing series out there. And with only five volumes in, you can easily catch up.

 

And one final comment about the JustGiblets blog in general. I notice that nothing has been posted for the year between my round-up of the best books of 2014, and now. Guess that means the blog is pretty much dead?  Or maybe I’ll try to be more active this year.  Only time will tell. Check back for my Top 10 books read in 2015.

posted in 2015, Books | at 11:39 am | 0 Comments
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