Sunday, July 5, 2015

Some Recent Books

I spent a lot of the last week of June panicking over my work schedule and feeling quite overwhelmed, but it ended up being pretty quiet last week.  Sometimes I stress myself out by anticipating the stress, and not as a result of actual stress worthy items.  Surely of all the problems out there, stressing one's self about stress is the worst (or at least most inefficient) thing to do.  However, despite the unexpected reprieve, I did end up getting quite sick over the public holiday, so...

All of this means that I have had a chance to do some serious reading.  Here are some books I've read recently, and also some books on my list for the rest of summer.  I just love a good summer read, so if you have something good please recommend away!

Judy Blume, In the Unlikely Event.  This is the first novel from Blume in a long while.   It is billed as an adult novel, but its main protagonist is in high school and dealing with all of the attendant issues that seem to transcend all time periods - first love, friendship, death - and of which Blume has already proved she is a master.  Told from varying overlapping perspectives, Blume weaves the stories together nicely, however (and I can't say much more without giving stuff away) some parts of the story struck me as a bit unrealistic.

Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park.  I quite liked this coming of age novel set in the 1980s in the Flats in Omaha, Nebraska.  Parts of it were so sad, other parts so witty and painful, but thoughtfully blended with bits bitter and yet also tender.  I'd previously read her book "Landline" which I found less intriguing.

Paula Hawkins, The Girl on a Train.  This book has received a lot of press recently.  I'd heard it styled as another "Gone, Girl" so I had a bit of an idea of what this would entail. I liked the pacing of the story though, and I liked the feeling of anticipation that all of these different story arcs were finally going to be resolved (when the author finally allows the reader to figure out how everything intersected in one crazy moment).  Again, though, as with Gone Girl, I felt like the characters were a bit unrealistic.  I am a plot reader above nearly all other things (meaning I will forgive nearly everything if you give me a good story), so I was happy to overlook this minor point, which is: you simply can't have two dimensional characters that are all bad or all good.

Maria Semple, Where'd You Go, Bernadette.  This was at the top of the NY Times Bestseller list for a while a while back, and I was surprised to realize I had never read it.  Again this story is also told through many overlapping accounts, but rather than straight narrative as in Blume's novel, it is also told through memos, letters and emails.  I usually despise this method of storytelling (it strikes me as a very lazy and juvenile way of writing a novel - this is why I've never been able to read Meg Cabot's many romance novels even though it clearly seems to be working for a large portion of the population) but here I was surprised to find that it works.

Sara Gruen, At the Water's Edge.  The first half of this book was an absolute slog for me to get through.  I was really, truly, trying and feeling ready to give up.  I was tired of the dreary weather, the tiresome search for the Loch Ness monster, a few of the insufferable characters (as with Hawkins the characters here are a little bit too pat)… but then the story took a fantastic turn at the halfway mark, and I was hooked.  The second half was very satisfying.  The one criticism I'd have about Gruen is that she neatly packages her plot and story lines, delivering them a bow on top - this book is not for you if you don't like tidy endings.

On My Reading List Currently:

Fran Lebowitz Reader, Fran Lebowitz.  Fran is so ridiculous, so dry, so preposterous.  How can you resist her?

A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson.  Because.  After Life After Life, I am pretty happy to read whatever she writes.

One Plus One, Jo Moyes.  I have no idea what this book is about, but I am also pretty happy to read whatever Jo writes.

Self-Help, Lorrie Moore.  Short stories, which I usually do not read, however, I picked this up on a recommendation and I am in awe.  Moore is clearly very talented and has a deft way with language.  Many of her sentences make me pause and read them again, savoring how the composition all flows together, and wondering how her brain works that she thought to put those things together.  Her writing forces you to think about… well, writing, writers, and how they write.

P.S. Did you notice, as I have begun to notice, that I read a lot of female authors??

P.P.S. I have to add, I am also reading Chimamandah Achidie.  I have her "We Should All be Feminists" on my reading list as well, though you could also check out her TED speech here.

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