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Best Books I Read:
While I was reading it, I was torn between abandoning it forever and never putting it down because it moved me so much. I don't even know how to explain it really, why my reaction was so intense. It felt personal somehow despite my not having any personal connection to the events referred to in the book. The imagery and the exploration of the nature of memory and grief and of knowing a person were very poignant. The part about giving up connections was alien to me but I could still understand. It was especially surprising to me because I had picked it up while browsing at the library and didn't really know what to expect going in except from what was on the back cover.

Stone Butch Blues
This book was eye-opening and absolutely amazing but also absolutely devastating, even more so than Certainty. I can't remember where this was recommended since I had it on my to-read list for so long but just wow. If push comes to shove and I had to choose one to recommend, I'd go with Stone Butch Blues. I think it's a book that everyone should read though one should be prepared for some potentially disturbing content.

Other Books I Really Liked:
Surprisingly, I found almost all of these through browsing (except Gladwell's) but they definitely did not disappoint.

Apex Hides the Hurt
This was a thought-provoking book, which touched on race and reconciling the perspectives we have on our past and future but also satirized American corporate culture, e.g, "nomenclature consultants", team-building, branding, etc. The writing style of book was a mix of distance and intimacy that took some getting used to but I also found it funny. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the protagonist's relationship and experience of words, names and naming.

A Person of Interest
The thriller plot was weird and also predictable but I liked the character development. I especially sympathized with the protagonist even though he made decisions I didn't agree with, especially with the hurt they cause. I also really sympathized with the loneliness he must feel and liked the juxtaposition of another character's solitude.

The Hungry Tide
I really enjoyed this book (and in fact, spent the majority of a 5-hr flight reading it instead of sleeping) but I would've liked to read more about certain characters who were integral in the story but given very little pagetime.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
This was a compelling but uncomfortable book. There was an edge to it; I had a sense of foreboding while reading and was always wary of what would happen next. The story was written with second person narration, which I thought was done well mostly and I found the protagonist sympathetic though he made some decisions which I didn't agree with.

Swimming in the Monsoon Sea
I also really enjoyed this book. I felt the author really captured that extreme intensity of feeling that teenagers experience and also the characterizations, especially of the main character in some of his actions; he and the reader can see the wrongness of certain actions but also understand the impulse to act that way regardless. I also really liked the detailed descriptions of everything - the bustling market, the day-to-day lives of the main characters, an important scene between the main character and one of his sisters, the changes to the ocean and shoreline during a monsoon. The book is billed as a young adult novel but it's very readable though being in my mid-twenties, I'm not very far removed. I will definitely check out more of his work.

What the Dog Saw - I've always liked his stuff and even though I'd already read some of the pieces in this collection, it was nice to revisit.

Most Pleasantly Surprising
These were fun, not too serious and occasionally formulaic but I didn't mind
Parasol Protectorate
A. Lee Martinez

Worst/Most Disappointing
Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
I didn't know what to make of this book and am surprised I finished it. The quest is highly problematic and the book itself is often just ridiculous, either in situation or in the characters' actions and other times, it's almost like an encyclopedia, with the narrator explaining some aspect of Chinese culture, though when those sections come by, I feel like I'm reading a tall tale, from the tone and the parts that came before. I was not very interested/invested in the main character's problems or misadventures; I wanted to know more about the women in his life - his "sweetheart" in prison (though at times, I wasn't sure if she even existed and wondered if Muo just made her up) and the two women he tries to enlist to help him. The ending felt strange and like giving Muo too many undeserved chances.

Dahanu Road
I found this book hard to read because I found most of the characters highly unsympathetic and several of them misogynistic, violent and oppressive; also didn't like that the women were the tragic figures. I think the author was trying to write love stories but even one character alludes to the two men killing the women they love, almost like it's a pattern or meant to happen.

Grand Sophy
I'd heard good things about Heyer's books but I couldn't get into this and found myself skipping/skimming pages. 

Some of these blurbs are basically edited versions of my original reviews/posts.
This was originally to be posted in a group discussion on Goodreads but I pared it down to best and worst there plus added responses to others' posts.
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January 2013

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