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Locus Amoenus: All By My Shelf

Watch the amazing Locus juggle several books at once, and try not to drop any! Free admission.

Currently reading

The Only Harmless Great Thing
Brooke Bolander
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
Sam Kean
Progress: 1 %
Abaddon's Gate
James S.A. Corey
Progress: 226/539 pages
The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories
Angela Carter, Kelly Link
Progress: 47/176 pages
The Song of Achilles: A Novel
Madeline Miller
Progress: 60 %
Penguin Minis: The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

I think this a book that reads very differently depending on where you are in life. If you're young and in love, or in love with the idea of love, Hazel and Gus could make an attractive couple: witty, spontaneous, and bursting with emotion.


But for me, an older reader and a parent, the best part of the book was the final third, when Gus is gone and Hazel is left with a clearer understanding of what her parents will one day go through. Throughout the book, in fact, it was Hazel's relationship with her parents, and not her fleeting love story, that seemed to be written best. Otherwise, as I mentioned in earlier posts, I found Hazel and Gus' dialogue unnatural and tiring.


I could also have done without the Peter Van Houten subplot. For me, it added nothing to the story, other than to prove the old adage about not meeting your idols. And his reappearance near the end of the novel felt forced and just terrible. I was much more interested in his assistant, and the friendship she developed with Hazel.


As I also wrote in an earlier post, I bought this set of Green novels because they're the first foray Penguin makes into its new collection of Minis. This is a popular format in the Netherlands, and Penguin has done a fantastic job in adapting it to their offerings. The books are read horizontally, and the pages can be comfortably flipped up with your thumb while the rest of the hand supports the book. It made for perfect lunchtime reading. The pages are thin but very sturdy, and I loved the experience. Hopefully, more authors will be added to the collection soon.

Reading progress update: I've read 365 out of 576 pages.

Penguin Minis: The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

Today's lesson: Never meet your idols. Enjoy their work, but leave them me.


Although, as appalling as Peter Van Houten turns out to be, I agree with him on one thing: once a work of art has been released into the world, it no longer belongs to the creator. A novelist has no obligation to have a prepared answer for what happens to characters once the last page has been read, or to even think about it. That is entirely in the purview of the readers, to fill in the gaps, the pasts and futures, as they see fit. It's actually one of the best things about reading, having that freedom to keep imagining beyond the boundaries of print.

Reading progress update: I've read 271 out of 576 pages.

Penguin Minis: The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

I'm still not in love with the dialogue style; I find myself rolling my eyes way too often. But I'm reading this almost as fantasy (because it is, in the end, the story of the MCs fulfilling a wish). Maybe if I'd read this book when its popularity was at peak frenzy (I haven't seen the film either), I could have followed the conversations and been more invested, but I can't say it's doing a lot for me at the moment.

This one looks interesting

The Red Address Book - Sofia Lundberg

Yes, my TBR pile is a mile high (at least), but I can never resist looking through reviews for future reads. This one looks like it might be a great read. Any opinions?

Reading progress update: I've read 50%.

 The Song of Achilles: A Novel - Madeline Miller

The tragedy, of course, is that we know where all this is headed; and by now, so do our protagonists. And still they sail, and still we harbor some hope...

Reading progress update: I've read 41%.

 The Song of Achilles: A Novel - Madeline Miller

Odysseus is pure gold.

Reading progress update: I've read 1%.

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements - Sam Kean

Getting an early jump on this group read, since I tend to be a slowpoke, my lightning-fast previous read notwithstanding (the more I like a book, the slower the read, by the way; tearing through a tome is not always a great sign for me).


I loved the introduction, which is as far as I got. I remember the days of mercury thermometers, though I never broke one. But I remember watching that same reaction, of the little spheres of mercury racing across a surface, during a chemistry class; it was fascinating. No wonder past alchemists and scientists saw so much poetry in it!


I'm really going to enjoy this journey through the periodic table. Although I was always terrible in science subjects (I later majored in literature, no surprise), I was fascinated by the stories behind the discipline. So what we now call "popular science" books are some of my favorite reads and listens.

I find this kind of book so fascinating...

Mind you, I might never sleep again. But I love scientific books that look at everyday things (like the ones Mary Roach writes), so I'll make note of this one.


From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live
By Rob Dunn

Introductions - C.L. Stone

Welp, that was... odd.


I won't post spoilers or discuss the ending too much, because hopefully others reading this for YA Book Club will chime in during the next weeks. For me, though, the "big reveal" felt incomplete. And I know this is, in part, because this book is setting up the ones to follow (hence the title); and it's hinted that all will be revealed in time. It just felt a bit flat.


There's also a class theme that pops up around the end, where the boys (who are obviously wealthy) say that the school they'll be attending is bad because many poor students go there; and that just felt yucky. There's a bit of elaboration to that idea in the reveal at the end, but as a former educator, it left a sour taste in my mouth. Schools are much more complex than that.


My final comment for now, and this is something I actually liked, is that the entire setting feels oddly creepy; there's an artificial rhythm to the way the neighborhood and school behave that may or may not be intentional, but I liked the surreal aspect of it. Kind of a Stepford vibe.


Will I keep reading the other books? The first chapter of the next book is included at the end of this one, and I'll read that, but I might not pursue the rest of the series. There's just so much else I want to read. But I can see myself picking up again between heavier reads, since this was ultimately light and fun.


My low rating is mostly because the protagonist was a doormat all the way through, with little change by the end of this first book. Also, because I find detailed descriptions of what people are wearing (down to brand names, which mean zero to me most of the time) to be lazy writing.




Reading progress update: I've read 65%.

Introductions - C.L. Stone

And Sang's Pokeboy collection keeps growing! We're up to... maybe 6 curiously hot and attentive boys? I know they mention there's seven of them who are friends, but the last one hasn't made his catwalk-ready appearance yet.


I know I'm poking a lot of fun at this book, but I'm also enjoying it quite a bit. There's some huge secret just always on the brink of bursting out like the Kool-Aid pitcher smashing through a wall, but I sense that will come more towards the end. The title is, after all, "Introductions," and this book is true to that theme.


I'm still really bothered by Sang's personality: clumsy, out of touch, painfully innocent, and willing to go along with anything the guys do because "I guess that's how friendships work because I've never had any and don't know better." To boot, there's the requisite "maiden in distress" scene earlier on, where Sang is nearly assaulted by another boy and in the end feels like she caused it. Nobody suggests otherwise, and the boys simply react by saying they're not letting her out of their sight again. Not cool.


The boys themselves don't bother me as much, because it's clear from the start that they're not all they seem to be, and that there's some ulterior bond and mission they all share. They're clearly protector types, and while that's also not necessarily my type of male character, they have their place in the story.


I just hope Sang comes into her own at some point. Right now, she reads as just an object to show how cool the guys are: someone constantly in need of rescue and surveillance, to the point where she's being guided in picking out her courses at school! I really want her to have more personality.

Reading progress update: I've read 23%.

Introductions - C.L. Stone

Okay, I'm definitely on board with this story, because I really want to know what's really going on, and the book has fairly good pacing so far. At the same time, it feels like the author is sitting across from me, winking furiously to let me know she's got something up her sleeve, and is dying to let me know but just can't yet. :D


My one big complaint so far is that I'm not really into the utter naiveté of our heroine; it's just not a trait I like in characters. She's led a very sheltered life (and I'm sure I'll learn more about that eventually), and is constantly asking herself whether it's normal for her new "friends" to behave in certain ways. She's a prime candidate for gaslighting, and the first-person POV just reinforces this sense of isolation. On one level, it works at creating tension (because we know there's something off about the boys); but it's not the kind of personality I enjoy reading about.


But onwards, brave reader!

Reading progress update: I've read 186 out of 539 pages.

Abaddon's Gate - James S.A. Corey

One thing I have to say about this series is that, although the page counts seem daunting (500+ per book), they really fly by.


Another aspect I love is how well you get to know all the new characters that keep popping up. Aside from Jim Holden and his crew, every book so far has had a different supporting cast of characters. Every chapter is told from a different perspective, though, so by the end of the novels you understand what makes everyone tick. I only wish some previous characters came back (a couple do in this one): I miss the foul-mouthed elder stateswoman Avasarala, and her sidekick Bobbie the Martian marine!


Also, the main series story line, following the development of an alien protomolecule, just gets creepier by the book, and I'm loving that as well.

Reading progress update: I've read 4%.

Introductions - C.L. Stone

Two chapters in, and I'm seriously questioning the protagonist's life choices.


Also, detailed descriptions of rooms and clothing tend to make me grit my teeth. Apparently, there's hidden meaning in Converse or Sketchers.


Otherwise, this will be an entertaining book for when I have a few minutes to read on my phone. I do want to know who the characters are, so I'll read on.

Mini Books!

Penguin Minis: The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

I'm reading this book more for the format than because I really wanted to read the story itself.


These little books are great to have around. They're the size of a phone, and are read horizontally, with the covers becoming an easy way to hold the book in one hand. The pages are thin but sturdy, and can mostly be flipped using a thumb (they're obviously going after the "swipe" generation here).


As for the story itself, I know it has many devoted fans, and I can see why people like it. I'm enjoying the wit of the protagonists, but at the same time find their words and actions somewhat unrealistic. The book is on my desk, and when I need a break from work I read through a few pages; it's also great for keeping in a pocket and taking it out when waiting in line at the store.


I know Penguin has plans for more books in this format (which was, I believe, inspired by a publisher in the Netherlands that has been printing like this for a while), and they chose a set of Green books as their first foray because of their popularity. Hopefully there will be more offerings in the near future!

 The Song of Achilles: A Novel - Madeline Miller
“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.” "