Archive for Misc

Book Review: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee Despite all the hype, I didn’t really want to read this book. I don’t tend to read books about the South, and considering this was rejected by the publishers at the time it was originally written, it just didn’t sound all that worthwhile.

However, I joined a book group earlier this year, and the organizer suggested we read To Kill a Mockingbird first and follow up with this. And given that I felt bad for suggesting the previous book choice (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, what was I thinking?!), I agreed.

I don’t want to get into any plot details, but I will say that the publishers were right when they advised Ms. Lee to try something else out. She ended up doing a lot better with her second attempt, and this one shouldn’t have been published, then or now.

The story just rambles around and is quite boring in parts, then switches into being too heavy-handed and irritating in other parts. The characters don’t feel very real or interesting, especially given how overdone some of the conversation is. And the spoilers from the media are true, though they do tie in with a larger message later on.

If you’re a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird and want to see the early beginnings of that book, go for it. If you’re an academic or like studying literature or learning how writers work out stories, read away. But don’t read it as a sequel to what is a much better book. Let it stand on its own, or take it for what it is: a poor first draft.

Book Pet Peeves

In the article I posted yesterday, about negative reviews, Francine Prose wrote about some of the things she dislikes seeing when reading a new book. Some of her examples included lazy writing, like using old cliches or tired phrases. (“His eyes were as black as night.”)

It got me thinking about some of the things that make me cringe when I’m reading. I think I also dislike when a writer uses words or phrases that are predictable or just overused. For example, a writer describing a character as “devouring” books or other reading material. I’m sure whoever used it first was being creative, but now it’s just boring.

Do you have any pet peeves like this? Something that makes you stop when you’re reading, or makes you think less of the writing somehow.

Book Reviews

I’ve had a bit of time on my hands in the last year, and some of that time has gone to reading a lot of the books I’ve acquired and never had time to actually read. In a “normal” calendar year, I’ll usually read 15-20 books if I can manage it, but last year I read 33, and this year, I’ve read 39 so far. When I finish a book, I usually keep track of it in a notebook and on LibraryThing (here’s my profile), and then usually post a rating, sometimes with a review, on Amazon or other sites that provide recommendations on other books to read. (I also do the latter part for books I don’t like and stop reading.) If I do post a review, it’s usually short, but I’d like to try writing more detailed ones here.

I’ve also poked around some book/reader blogs recently and have seen a lot of people writing about participating in reading “challenges.” The challenges might be about reading about certain topics or in certain genres, reading a certain quantity (usually with a deadline), or reading from a preset list. I can’t think of anything like this, other than the occasional summer reading program, but it’s something I’d like to try out, especially if I can find neat books to read that way.

I tend to read a lot of historical fiction, and I’ve noticed that I sometimes get a little stuck in very specific areas of that. Lots of late 19th century to mid-20th century stories, mainly taking place in the US, England, Germany, or Japan. This summer and fall, for example, I’ve read an awful lot of novels taking place in WWII Germany and England. I do happen to find these time periods and places interesting, but sometimes I think it might be good to venture a bit outside of that, perhaps even in terms of genre. As long as they are well-written and enjoyable to read.

I might also post about anything new I acquire, though most of the books I get these days are used and gotten as cheaply as possible. I use a few book swap sites (BookMooch and PaperBackSwap mainly), and I also live near a small used bookstore, run by a local library “friends” group, that sells books for super-cheap. Plus, there are plenty of library book sales going on around here.

Ok, we’ll see how this goes!

Read the Printed Word