Cloud Atlas, Beautiful Creatures, Lions of al-Rassan, Gifts, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


The only thing worse than not updating your blog for two months is not updating your blog for two months and then just posting a bunch of book reviews. Lame, I know. Have I said this before? Because it sounds kind of familiar. You’ll notice that all the new books (as well as the three I’m in the middle of reading right now) are fantasy novels, and we all know what that means. It means that while my body and even my mind are busy efficiently accomplishing numerous tasks, my secret consciousness is vacationing and binging on escapist fiction. Yes, life has been a little hectic and crazy lately. But there are worse coping methods than fantasy novels. Right?

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Frankly, this is a run-of-the-mill YA Twilight knock-off book. I generally reserve a one star rating for books I actively dislike, find offensive, or think are complete literary fails. This book is just mediocre. It was kind of fun that it was set in the South, since I currently live in the South, but I couldn’t really get into the plot or sympathize much with any of the characters. It was all a little flat, with not a whole lot of grist for the mind.

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas by David Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is another book I came at via the movie, which I absolutely adored, even though I needed the assistance of multiple infographics to sort out the characters and plot. The cinematography was spectacular, and the movie was full of absolutely unforgettable moments.

The book was more different from the movie than I expected. I think they are both brilliant in their different ways (see this review, with which I completely agree: ‘Cloud Atlas’ Is an Ecstatic Exploration of Humanity). If I had it to do over again, I would read the book first, because it would make the movie so much more comprehensible.

I really loved Mitchell’s dramatization of some of the concepts in Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. The themes of individual choice, compassion, and human connection come through like golden threads. The organization of the novel is fascinating, and definitely contributes to the overall effect. I found all six of the nested novellas compelling. It must have been highly diverting for Mitchell to write in so many different styles.

Also, I have always found the idea of reincarnation utterly exhausting. But this book made me want to be born over and over again. I loved this beautiful quote: “Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” I consider Cloud Atlas a modern classic, and highly, highly recommend it.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that everyone recommends to me, but I never get around to reading. Except I finally did get around to reading it. It was a pretty fun read. I enjoyed the epistolary style, and I’m always a fan of books set on islands, because they tend to have such a delightful mix of the otherworldly and the quaint. I enjoyed all the little bits of daily life during World War II. Yes, I even cried, although the other half of me was simultaneously aware that the story was too sappily sentimental to be seriously cried over. If you enjoy books like Anne of Green Gables, you will likely love this book.

The Lions of al-RassanThe Lions of al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t think Guy Gavriel Kay is capable of writing a novel I don’t like. Still, I admit that this one was not my favorite, which is perplexing, since I am predisposed to like anything to do with medieval Spain, a time and place I find enchanting. His invented religions, which I usually find inventive and thought-provoking, fell flat for me a bit. Maybe it’s just because I already know too much about this historical time period, and just slapping different names on Islam, Christianity and Judaism didn’t really do much for me. Still, there was plenty to love in this book, and I enjoyed just about every page.

Gifts (Annals of the Western Shore, #1)Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 really, but I usually try to err on the side of generosity. This book meandered a bit. Compared to other people’s fantasy, it was first-rate, but by Ursula LeGuin’s own high standards, it was just a bit colorless. Still, there were plenty of thought-provoking moments and beautiful turns of phrase, and the character development, one of LeGuin’s strong points, was very well done. The novel ended a bit abruptly, but in a way that made me want to read the next book in the series.

View all my reviews

One thought on “Cloud Atlas, Beautiful Creatures, Lions of al-Rassan, Gifts, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

  • November 24, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    I have been wondering about you, and how you were liking your job. Thanks for sharing your book reviews. I always enjoy them!


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