reading highlights from the second half of 2016

Hello friends! My name is Marines and today I’m going to be catching up on some of the highlights of the last half of my reading in 2016. So, this year I started doing these mini-wrap ups instead of wrapping up my reading by month, I was doing it in bunches of books and I love this format and I’m definitely going to keep up with it in the next year However, I got super behind on my reading in 2016. I just didn’t make as many videos as I planned on making. School got really busy,
I switched jobs, etc, etc… All the things you’ve heard me talking about this year.
So, I just got super behind on making these wrap-ups. Now that I have some time
off, I was working on catching up and doing the last bit of my reading, trying
to catch up with the last half of the year’s reading and do it in proper
wrap-up format, I realized that that wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do.
So what I decided to do was give you some highlights of the last half of my
year and I’ll have Goodreads reviews up for everything and I’ll be talking about
the rest of these book, I’m sure in– in the months to come, but I just wanted to
do a proper wrap-up for a few of these books. In August of 2016, I read “Every Heart a Doorway” by Seanan McGuire. I absolutely loved the premise and set-up
of this book so much. Imagine that all of the children that get whisked away to a
magical land ultimately come back for better or for worse. In this book we
follow a school that is set up to help these children deal with their time in
other worlds but also re-acclimate to ours. The elements as it pertained to
the school and the different worlds and the characters and how their travels
affected them were all wonderful. The story is dark and atmospheric and this
backdrop of magic really helps it explore this idea of trauma and
especially in children and young adults and what that means for their growing up
process. Some of the elements of their story have these real-life counterpoints.
For example, when they return nobody believes them about what they’ve experienced and it really does break your heart for them. This story is also diverse and it features asexual and trans main characters. The only misstep for me was in the length of the story.
I will admit that this is a me personally thing. I very much struggle
with short-form fiction and that’s true for novellas and short stories and graphic novels. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them; I just think that they’re really difficult to
pull off correctly and in this particular story, I felt like there was
too much to fit in the space that Seanan McGuire allowed herself. There is
a mystery element to the story which I also enjoyed, but just because it was so
few pages, the resolution went by so quickly, like it was just rushed in the
second half of the story. On the other hand, the brevity and ease of reading are probably two more reasons why you should just pick this up and enjoy it. Overall I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Another novella that I felt was
beautifully crafted but I had trouble connecting with was “Another Brooklyn” by
Jacqueline Woodson. This is a fiction story about a woman who is looking back
on her time growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970s. This was another book that was difficult for me to rate and review because it is beautifully written but again it just goes by so
quickly. I think for me with both “Every Heart a Doorway” and “Another Brooklyn,” it
might take a reread to really cement it in my feelings. Even so, I can say that
this read was super musical and fluid and atmospheric. It’s the kind of read–
you’re hearing her talk about her childhood and you just feel transported
to this time in this place. It read more like a song than a linear narrative and
even had that kind of structure where you have like verse, chorus, verse, bridge
chorus. It was– it had that feeling and that structure to it rather than, like I
said, a linear narrative. That musicality about it was just perfect to capture
this area and this place and not only that but just adolescence and growing up
and growing up as she did on the edge of poverty. It is a beautiful read but it is a somber and
heartbreaking subject so it creates a nice duality throughout the
entire read and I ended up giving this 4 out of 5 stars. Also in August, I read “My Name is Lucy Barton” by Elizabeth Strout. This is the first book that I picked up off the Man Booker
Long List and it was my intention to read all of them but I read the first few– handful
and I struggled with all of them so I put that project aside. I thought “Lucy
Barton” was good at what it set out to do. It’s this kind of quiet, ambling story
that Lucy is telling during a particular hospital stay. Her health issues have made her
introspective and she’s recalling scenes from her life, but also thinking a lot
about memory itself. There were a lot of very beautiful moments within the story
but the overall effect missed the mark for me. It was such a quiet and rambling
story that it erred on the side of boring. In the end, in the practice, I’m not sure that such a quiet, ambling, forgettable story is something that I can highly rate or review.
Overall I gave this 3 out of 5 stars. Also from the Man Book Long List, I
read Eileen by Otessa Moshfeg. In a theme that I’m quickly picking up in
this video, this is another one that was really difficult for me to rate and
review. Through this book, Eileen tells us her own version of the story of her life.
She lives with her alcoholic father and she works at a boy’s correctional
facility. She stalks one of the security guards she works with and becomes
infatuated with another co-worker. She has an incredibly unhealthy relationship
with food and her own body and all of these things get into woven into the
story that she is telling us about herself. The story left me feeling icky,
which I have to give the author credit because that was probably her point,
I kept reading because it felt like it was building towards something and I was
curious to know what that something was. My biggest complaints about the story
weren’t about Eileen’s unlikableness, however. I felt that Moshfeg got super
repetitive in what she was trying to convey, specifically about Eileen in her
own character traits. What may have been purposeful, to kind of give us a better
idea of Eileen’s mental state, came off as padded prose. We were reading the
same things over and over again. Additionally, the climax– that thing we
were building towards that she did so well of putting a feeling into the
story– the climax and resolution happened too late in the story and it gave the
feeling that everything at the end was rushed. Despite having mixed feelings
about the story as a whole, it did really keep me thinking, especially about Eileen
as a narrator, and inspired a video that I made about unreliable narrators in general.
Overall, I also gave this one 3 out of 5 stars. Another book that I picked up from the
Man Booker Long List was “The North Water” by Ian McGuire.
Holy held did I struggle getting through this one and I just
think it’s an accomplishment that I read it to the end at all. This is historical fiction about a bunch of whalers in the Arctic Circle. I will start off this little mini-review by
saying that this was not the book for me. I can see what McGuire was trying to do
but I will say that in addition to his story being not for me, I don’t think he
was entirely successful in his endgame. McGuire is clearly a gifted storyteller
and his story felt full of details and well-researched. However, it is also full of violence, gore, misogyny, rape and generally awful people. I’m not the kind of person that will
typically shy away from anything in fiction just because it’s present in the text. To me, what matters the most is the message that it conveys. I don’t think
that any topics are necessarily off-limits to fiction, but I just think
it’s important what the text is conveying about these difficult subjects.
All McGuire seem to be telling us is that people are bad: they were bad at the
start of his book, they were bad at the end of his book, and all of the stuff in
the middle felt super gratuitous to me. I ended up giving this 2 out of 5 stars. In the recent collab that I did about a
bunch of people’s picks for their favorites of 2016, both Kirsti from
Melbourne on my Mind and Joce from squibblesreads picked Jane Steele by
Lyndsay Faye. I also read this and I gave it 5 out of 5 stars. This is a gothic retelling of “Jane Eyre”
in a very unique way in that “Jane Eyre” exist for our main character Jane
Steele and it is her favorite book and she references it and uses it to make
decisions in her own life. I love “Jane Eyre.” It’s one of the books that I’ve
been reading and rereading for the better part of my life. I think that loving
“Jane Eyre” definitely helped my enjoyment of the story overall but on its own “Jane
Steele” is a well-crafted and darkly entertaining book. It’s essentially if
Jane were a murderer and Rochester was less of a jerk because he wasn’t keeping
a you-know-what in the attic. (Human.) Faye really nails it here because she creates
a story that stands up on its own while still referencing the source
material and capturing the general air and feeling of the original as well. And finally, “The Weight of Feathers” by
Anna-Marie McLemore. This is a magical realism story about two feuding
families. In one family they grow scales and perform as traveling mermaids. In
the other they grow feathers and perform as traveling tree top performers. This
story was completely lovely, though at times I think it was very apparent that
it was also very simple. Beyond the magical realism and the marks that both
of these families bear, it is a classic star-crossed lovers kind of story.
Sometimes, within the text, I felt like that simplicity dragged down the story
but, for the most part, I thought that the simplicity was a good vehicle for
allowing the story to comment on blind prejudice and inherited violence. I loved
Luc and Lace, our main characters and they were just both genuinely good souls
that you really enjoyed reading about and rooting for. Overall, I gave this 4 out of 5 stars. I don’t know if I’m gonna regret not
wrapping up each of these books properly, but it’s the end of the
year and I’m just tired. 2016 was… 2016 and I am tired. I’d rather not start the
new year off in a deficit, you know? And feeling like I have all of these things
I need to do before I can start properly on new material or whatever it is.
I’m starting with a clean slate, I guess you would say, and you’ll get those little
mini wrap-ups throughout 2017. Hopefully, I can keep up with my
reading, so let’s try this again! If you’ve read any of the books that I’ve
mentioned or are interested in them, let’s chat down in the comments.
Thank you so much for watching this video and I will see you guys soon! [OUT TAKE] For instance when they return nobody believes their stories [PHONE RINGS] Are you serious?

24 thoughts on “reading highlights from the second half of 2016

  1. I thought Eileen would've been a better short story. And I just found out Moshfegh has a short story collection coming out very soon, so I think that'll be much better. She's good at capturing feelings/emotions, which is really important in short fiction.

  2. Watching these mini-reviews is helping me drag myself out of dystopian fiction. I have to expand my literary repertoire. Thanks Mari!

  3. Kudos to you for finishing North Water, I couldnt do it… Eileen was not one of my favorite reads of the year but it is one of those books that stayed with me for quite some time. And I just ordered Jane Steele, really looking forward to reading it. Have a great start of 2017 and much happiness (and good books) for the new year!

  4. Oh man, I'm sorry the Man Booker longlist was so strange this year. I think I tried 3 or 4 of the novels, but wasn't able to finish any of them. I'm glad others had more success, but I don't know almost anyone who really got on with it this year. I hope next year is a bit better!

  5. Every Heart a Doorway is on my TBR for 2017! I also really want to read Jane Steele since I've heard great things about it from Joce! I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed Jane Steele as well! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I feel you on short fiction, I really struggle with short stories in particular, they rarely work for me. Novellas are hit and miss too, I don't read tonnes of them but some I've loved and some I've hated. I haven't read Jane Eyre yet so I'm assuming that was a spoilery comment re a human in the attic, I'm hoping to tackle it this year though and then I'll borrow Jane Steele from the library.

  7. I always love hearing you talk about books! ๐Ÿ™‚ I look forward to the next year and what videos it has in store from you! I have yet to read any of the books you mentioned but Every Heart a Doorway, Eileen, Jane Steele and The Weight of Feathers are in my tbr and I really want to read them!

  8. I felt much of the same way about Another Brooklyn. I loved the anthropology bits, the way she described her friends, and the way she described the outside world. I still have the image of the fire hydrant spraying in my head and her dry knees and lots of tidbits like that, all which have stayed with me. But I still felt like just a little something was missing for me. From the rest you spoke about, definitely want to get to Jane Steele hopefully in 2017.

  9. I've only read Every Heart a Doorway from this list and did feel it was way too short. I would have liked to see the characters more developed and less focus on the murder mystery. I do think this is all due to the length of the book.

    I love your videos and how eloquent you are. Hope to see more of you next year! ๐Ÿ’•


    I didn't read anything from the Man Booker list this year. But my experiences of reading a bunch of things from the Man Booker INTERNATIONAL long list this year did reinforce for me that pretty much anything that ends up on the Man Booker radar really isn't my kind of book. Sigh.

  11. Every heart a doorway is on my list for 2017. And I too LOVED Jane Steele!

    I don't think the Manbooker is my kind of reading. Based on lots of reviews, it doesn't seem like I'd enjoy the books that are nominated. :/

  12. I totally agree with everything you said about Eileen! I found the ending really anti-climactic. However, I certainly haven't forgotten about it and it has left me thinking ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. So looking forward to Jane Steele! I'm rereading Jane Eyre as we speak and I'd love to pick it up as soon as my TBR pile has shrunken down, so I can clearly see all the parallels.

    I think it's a good idea to just start off with a clean slate. The books that meant much to you, will probably still pop up anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. "a you know what in the attic (human)" lol yes.

    I am really glad you liked The Weight of Feathers. Not sure if I told you that already or not.

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