SarahMichigan (sarahmichigan) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books #17-18

Book #17 was "Burnt Mountain" by Anne Rivers Siddons. The book revolves around events on Burnt Mountain. When our main character, Thayer, was a girl, she found the camp on the mountain magical and met her first love there. But the mountain also has painful memories. Thayer looks back on past events, tries to understand why her first love did what he did, why her mother did the cruel things she did, and looks forward to where things are going with her Celtic mythology professor husband, Aengus, are going. Thayer's life begins to spin out of control as the past comes back and her husband starts to become obsessed with teaching his mythology to the camp full of boys. While this novel was beautifully written, it's always a risk to have someone who is mostly a passive observer as the main character, and Thayer tends to have things happen to her, rather than being the one who initiates things. Her husband goes off the deep end by the end of the novel, and I actually found him to be a more interesting character than Thayer. I'd love to see a short story from HIS perspective! Overall, I liked the writing enough to maybe read more by this author in the future, but I think this book was somewhat flawed.

Book #18 was "Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia" by David Greene. My sister-in-law is Ukrainian by birth and mentioned that she had read and enjoyed this book, so both my husband and I read it to have something in common to talk about with her. I've seen some criticisms of the book on GoodReads and elsewhere that I find bizarre, mostly commonly "This was supposed to be a travelogue, and it really wasn't!" and "Greene's assumptions about what Russia and Russians are like are naive and offensive!" I think they're both silly, as he makes it pretty clear early on that while it is a story about traveling the Transsiberian railway, it's mainly about the people he meets and what they think about modern-day Russia. I also think it's silly to penalize Greene for being honest about what his preconceptions and stereotypes are -- that's just being honest with the reader, and he *does* evolve his understanding of Russia and Russians over the course of the book. My only complaints were a) that the book felt somewhat slight - he could have gotten more information about the cities they visit in there considering he spent 5 weeks on the train and talked to a lot of people, and b) that he repeats himself a few times too many on the subject of his expectations about the country and its citizens vs. what they were really like. Overall, though, it's a fascinating glimpse into the everyday lives of everyday people in modern-day Russia.

1. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time" [nonfiction]- David Oliver Relin and Greg Mortenson (unabridged audiobook)
2. The Detroit Electric Scheme [fiction]- D.E. Johnson
3. Classic Philip Jose Farmer 1964-1973 (Volume 5  in the Classics of Modern Science Fiction series) [fiction/short stories]- PJ Farmer
4. "The Aspern Papers" and "The Turn of the Screw" (omnibus volume with notes and commentary) [fiction]- Henry James
5. Ever After (11th in "The Hollows" series) [fiction]- Kim Harrison (unabridged audiobook)
6. On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family [nonfiction]- Lisa See
7. Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama [nonfiction/ graphic memoir]- written and illustrated by Alison Bechdel
8. My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir [nonfiction/memoir]- Noelle Hancock
9. House of Leaves [fiction]- Mark Z. Danielewski
10. Ready Player One [fiction]- Ernest Cline (unabridged audiobook)
11. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America [nonfiction]- Barbara Ehrenreich
12. Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life [nonfiction/memoir]- Harriet McBryde Johnson
13. The Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus series) [fiction]- Rick Riordan (unabridged audiobook)
14. Ivanhoe [fiction]- Sir Walter Scott
15. Ancillary Justice [fiction]- Ann Leckie
16. Beauty Queens [fiction]- Libba Bray (unabridged audiobook)

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