Surznick Reads: August 2014 - The Surznick Common Room

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Surznick Reads: August 2014

Another month gone by already... here are our August reads!

Sarah's Reads!

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
From "Deborah Harkness’s sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches, has brought her into the spotlight and galvanized fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Harkness has created a universe to rival those of Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Kostova, and she adds a scholar's depth to this riveting tale of magic and suspense."

A Discover of Witches (book 1 of the All Souls Trilogy) was not on my reading list this year, however, my book club chose book 3 as our October selection, so I had to tack on books 1 and 2 to my list. I wasn't really sure if I would like this, but I was happily surprised to find that it's more about history and science than it is about vampire-witch romance. I would say it's like a mix between the Twilight series, the Robert Langdon series, and American Horror Story: Coven. By midway through the book, I was hooked and couldn't wait to read more about Diana's emerging powers and the enchanted manuscript. This first book ends on a cliffhanger, and I'm already well into book 2, finding out what happens next.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
From "1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart... An emotionally charged coming-of-age novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again."

I loved this book. This is a beautifully told story about love, loss, and accepting help from unexpected sources. The story is told from 14-year old June's perspective, as she copes with her uncle dying of AIDS. Though June is just barely a teenager, she's very mature and you don't at all feel like you're reading from a 14-year old's diary. It was also very interesting to read a story that takes place in a time where people didn't know much about AIDS. Their opinions and behaviors were very surprising at times, but captivating nonetheless. This is Brunt's debut and only novel, and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Nick's Reads!

Sideways by Rex Pickett
From "Sideways is the story of two friends-Miles and Jack-going away together for the last time to steep themselves in everything that makes it good to be young and single: pinot, putting, and prowling bars. In the week before Jack plans to marry, the pair heads out from Los Angeles to the Santa Ynez wine country. For Jack, the tasting tour is Seven Days to D-Day, his final stretch of freedom. For Miles--who has divorced his wife, is facing an uncertain career and has lost his passion for living-the trip is a weeklong opportunity to evaluate his past, his future and himself. A raucous and surprising novel filled with wonderful details about wine, Sideways is also a thought-provoking and funny book about men, women, and human relationships."

For the most part, I enjoyed reading this book. There are a few things that bothered me about it, but overall it was entertaining. The two main characters got themselves in some pretty comical situations and I think I actually laughed out loud once or twice. At first, I was really happy to read all the details about wine tasting--a world which I know nothing about. However, after a little while, all the details about each and every wine they drank seemed to get a bit dry/boring for me. Another thing about the book that I didn't really love was that it was so up and down. The two main characters fought, and made up. Fought again... and made up. Fought again (a bigger fight than last time)... and made up... repeat until the end of the book. In that sense, it was a bit repetitive and predictable. Overall, an entertaining read, but not a suburb book.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
From "Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor’s bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock-therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy’s survival under the most extraordinary circumstances."

Now this was a great book. I read my first Augusten Burroughs book, Magical Thinking, last month, and it was hilarious. Since I knew that this was a really famous book by him, I figured it was time to give it a read. It was pretty fascinating to know that it was a memoir and that all the absurd stories that he details throughout actually happened. It was simultaneously horrifying, hilarious, disturbing, fun and sad. It also helps that it is so well written. I felt like he was just sitting right there with me, telling me these stories first hand. It made the reading experience really enjoyable and I am already looking forward to reading more by Burroughs.

My Rating: 5 Stars

We hope you all have a great Labor Day holiday!

Sarah & Nick


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