Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January mini-reviews

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - This collection of short stories is the first I've read of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I keep meaning to read her novels, Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun. If I'm honest, the reason I haven't is that they're a little long and books set in the recent past as hers are (I believe the 1960s?) sometimes depress me. I'd been thinking that short stories are becoming a favourite genre lately, especially as my mental capacity for longer novels shortens daily. So I picked this book up, thought I'd give it a try. And I really, really enjoyed the collection. I didn't love every story, but overall I enjoyed the experience of reading it. The stories are all about women and how they interact with men, with their families, with each other and the different cultural aspects of Nigeria and America. Some of the stories, I really desperately wanted to know more and I felt like I'd really connected with the characters despite not having spent much time with any of them. After reading these short stories, I think I will have to read Adichie's novels.

Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx - Here's another collection of short stories, this time by Annie Proulx. I read The Shipping News a few years ago and loved it. I've read a lot of other book bloggers didn't enjoy it as much as I did, but I found it all to be fascinating despite being a little slow and dry. So I was really looking forward to reading more by Proulx. And I did enjoy this collection. Mostly. I thought the first story of an old man returning to Wyoming after being away for decades to be really interesting and engaging. I felt like Wyoming was a character, and I could picture it all in my head. I then read Brokeback Mountain, the last story of this book, and again, I was blown away. It was beautiful and gritty and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I did enjoy some of the other stories, but not as much as that first story, or the last. Some of the stories had very interesting subjects, such as a detailed account of the rodeo circuit, but I was unable to connect to unlikeable characters and one or two stories I did have to skim through.

Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman - This is a fun one. It's a short prequel to the His Dark Materials series and details how the charismatic aeronaut Lee Scoresby meets the armoured bear, Iorek Byrnison many years before they meet Lyra. Lee, his daemon Hester and Iorek are some of my absolute favourite characters from the series, so I loved every minute of this. I sped right through it and when I was finished I was only disappointed that there wasn't more. It has kind of a Western feel to it, as Lee Scoresby engages in this shoot-out with an old enemy as he gets involved in some political tension in the Artic. It's filled with cute little illustrations and some satisfying tension. A quick, enjoyable read. But I'd like something meatier next, Mr. Pullman.

Mort by Terry Pratchett - I finished this book last December but somehow it got missed during my last batch of mini-reviews? Mort is the first Terry Pratchett book I finished, and I enjoyed it immensely. It was such a surprise how funny and readable it is. I truly loved the characters. When I finished Mort, I quickly had to track down other Death novels just so I can have some more, please. In this, Mort, a young, clumsy boy finds himself apprenticed to Death. Soon enough, Death is giving Mort more and more responsibility as he goes off to drink and dance and fulfill his own interests. And Mort, poor boy, left to his own devices is making a right mess of things. What a wonderful book. It's witty and clever and subtly funny. I loved it.

And that's it. Have you read any of these books? Or do you have any suggestions for what else I should read? Let me know, please!


  1. Close Range was one of the first short story collections I attemped for the pure fun of it, and I remember it fondly, though it was hit and miss at times. It's one I'd be willing to re-read. Oh, and I have a documentary of hers to watch.

  2. I didn't realise The Northern Lights trilogy had a prequel. I shall definitely look out for it.

  3. I really liked Once Upon a Time in the North, more than Lyra's Oxford. But still waiting for the Book of Dust!!

  4. I've read all of Adichie's books, and as enjoyable as her short story collection was, her novels are a billion times better!


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