Thursday, August 22, 2013

Reading, lately

Another unedited round up of everything I've read since the last one.

* Note - this post contains affiliate links. Please see my policy on those links in the sidebar. *

Pym ++
With recommendations from Lauren and Lily, I really couldn't go wrong. This book is bizarre and hilarious, with a Thomas Kinkade subplot that nearly killed me (and probably my marriage, when I tried to explain it to D during a long car ride). DO IT.

Beautiful Ruins +
Absorbing story and I always love Hollywood madness plots. I don't like to reduce anything to a vacation read, but this would be really good for vacation. Very readable.

No Country for Old Men++
I finally got around to reading this one. I love the voices in this novel and there really isn't any point in giving you a plot summary. It's a Western thriller. If you love guts, guns and terse conversations (why is McCarthy opposed to apostrophes??) you'll love it.

White Teeth ++
I clearly remember starting this book several years ago (I think it was 2006) and feeling terrible that I couldn't get into it. It got so much critical acclaim! I wondered if I was a failed literature student. I put it in my cart last month as penance, swearing that I would slog through it this time no matter what. I girded my loins and was shocked to discover that it's hilarious? I have no idea what was going on in 2006, but it clearly wasn't my year for this book. One of the (many) passages that sucked me in:  "As Merlin was later to reflect when describing the incident, at any time of the day corduroy is a highly stressful fabric. Rent collectors wear it. Tax collectors, too. History teachers add leather elbow patches. To be confronted with a mass of it, at nine A.M., on the first day of a New Year, is an apparition lethal in its sheer quantity of negative vibes." The novel examines the ties of friendship and family spanning two generations. It's sad, funny and surprising. If you love dry humor, you'll love this. If you don't like it immediately, please stop and try again in 7 years.

The Financial Lives of the Poets +
Same author as Beautiful Ruins, similar sort of book (note - not a similar plot, just a similar quick read with a different crazy plot). A journalist turned poet turns drug dealer. Set amid the financial collapse of 2008.

Too Much Happiness ++
Short stories hold a special place in my heart and I usually like to save them for times when I'll be able to sit down and devour them whole. There's something so immersive about a short story and it feels wrong to stop in the middle. These are excellent little snippets of lives. Several of them are eerie, verging on creepy, all of them are captivating. I'd like to re-read these again even more slowly.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter ++
You know how some novels take a while to warm up? I just fell right into this one and barely wanted to look up. It feels like something you would have read in English class (and possibly many people did) and I mean that in the best way possible. I love good writing, layered symbolism and a great sense of place/time. When I finished it I was terribly sad that my AP English teacher wasn't around to lead a discussion on the meaning of everyone's names. Most solid book I've read all summer.

Days Between Stations +
This one is hard to describe. A dreamy, amnesiac story that drifts between times and countries and characters. It has more than a touch of magical realism, in a North American interpretation of the genre. There is a lot going on, and by the time I got to the end I'd almost forgotten where I'd come from. There is: a boy raised in a hidden room in a Parisian brothel, a Los Angeles ravaged by sandstorms and covered in dunes, an eerie bicycle race in a darkened Venice where the riders suddenly disappear. And those are just a few highlights. I think this one will need a re-read.

And the mysteries ...

Another Thing to Fall
The Tess Monaghan series isn't one of my standbys but they're enjoyable. I prefer Lipman's non-series books.

He Who Fears the Wolf
Another Sejer mystery. I think I'm converted. Even though I have a really hard time telling the two main inspectors apart because Sejer and Skarre sound so similar to me (I know they aren't - what is my deal?).

The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree
I'd call this a traditional cozy mystery but set in the South. Similar to the Tea Shop mysteries which I'm embarrassed to admit I love.

Not in the Flesh  and Murder Being Once Done 
I was so excited that I liked that other Ruth Rendell that I checked out two more. And they were both flops for me. Maybe this just isn't my author? Or I specifically don't like the Inspector Wexford series?

Sister
If you're looking for a summer thriller, I'll recommend this one. A sister investigating her sister's apparent suicide. I was going to criticize the narration tactic (I got a little bogged down initially) but the plot is twisty and tense enough that I'll forgive it. If you enjoy complicated family relationships and fairly unbelievable medical testing drama, this will be your bag.


No re-reads in this latest batch! I managed to keep my Kindle stocked pretty well this summer. Of course now I'm totally dry and need to re-load. I'm still hoping I'm going to manage to fit in a couple of days in Palm Springs where I'll do nothing but read. I can dream, right?


32 comments:

  1. I enjoy your book recommendation posts, as they are often filled with unfamiliar-to-me books, as well as (often) positive reviews of books I do know, but haven't read. Unfortunately, I am a very slow reader (by slow, I've come to realize I mean both slow and that I just don't read enough). I've had Life After Life on my list for a while and will hopefully get around to it one of these days!

    Have you read any Mary Roach books? She was recommended to me a couple months ago, but none of the book descriptions really grabbed me, and I had no idea where to start.

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    1. I've heard about Mary Roach and heard her interviewed, but I've never read anything by her. I tend to read more novels than non-fiction but her books sound fascinating. I'll add them to my list and hopefully post about it eventually!

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  2. I did the same thing with White Teeth! Began reading it aobut 4 years ago and just couldn't get into it. Picked it up again about a week ago and cannot put it down; it is hilarious.

    Also, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter... one of my all time favorites.

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    1. So funny! We must be on the same mental schedule with books. : )

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  3. I love your book posts. Helps me stock up on ideas on what to read next. My e-reader needs to be re loaded with some good books!

    Have you read any of Gillian Flynn's novels?

    I recently read Gone Girl as it got a lot of hype this summer as a "must read". I found it a little slow to start and almost took personal offense (as a women) to the way it described the main character as a hopeless housewife. But, then all of a sudden, bam!! The book spiraled into something I didn't see coming at all- great read!! I've read Dark Places and Sharp Objects also by Gillian Flynn and I recommend any and all of her books!

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    1. Yes, I think I've read all of them! I actually read Dark Places before Gone Girl and I thought it was a stronger book than Gone Girl (although I enjoyed that one as well, just didn't love it). I really enjoyed Gone Girl. I just couldn't get into Sharp Objects, though! That one didn't do it for me. Weird, huh? If you love those, you might also really like Tara French.

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  4. Agree with km on Gone Girl. Best book I've read in a long time. Not sure I agree with the slow start comment or it being offensive. Personally I found it quite an interesting portrayal of human behavior. Regardless, a great read!

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    1. Have you read Dark Places by the same author? I like it so much better than Gone Girl! To be fair, I read it first, and before I'd heard all the hype about GG, so I'm prejudiced. : )

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  5. Love your book recommendations! I loved Beautiful Ruins and can't wait to read Financial Lives of Poets.

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  6. I wrote my junior year thesis (high school english) on Carson McCullers. LOVE HER. You should also read Flannery O'Connor if you haven't already. Similarly delicious.

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  7. I have *got* to get a library card because my bank account cannot handle my book habit. (Which is why I've been rereading lately.) Pym, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and No Country for Old Men sound like musts for me. (I've seen the Coen brothers' NCFOM, so I know the story, but I'd still like to read the book.)

    Are you through Sorcerer's Stone yet? I'm already halfway through Chamber of Secrets. I just can't put them down when I start. :)

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    1. Yes, get your library card set up! I've only purchased a couple of Kindle books. I'd love to own a ton and have a little Kindle library of my own, but I just can't afford it. My public library has a pretty decent selection of e-books available.

      I'm so behind you right now! I've had almost zero reading time this week and it probably won't get better for a couple more. Boo.

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  8. I was recently directed to Nevil Shute's body of work. His work spreads across pre- and post-WWII. Start out with A Town Like Alice, and see where you go from there.

    White Teeth is one of my favorites!

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    1. Oooh - thanks! I'll add that to my list.

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  9. Part of my AP English summer assignment one year was to choose a book to "save" (we were also reading F-451 that summer), and I chose The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. No regrets.

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    1. Such a fun assignment! Although it might kill me. One of my worst nightmares is having someone ask me what my favorite book is. How can you ever choose?!

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  10. So funny--I almost bought White Teeth two years ago while I was enrolled in an MA in English, but couldn't get into it at all. I think I was too tired of the type of book at that point, because I also withdrew from that program that same month! Maybe I'll pick it up in a few years and love it.

    And The Heart is a Lonely Hunter? So good. I've loved everything I've read of Carson McCullers. One of my professors used her books in an intro to the English program course and I kept reading her stories even after writing two papers on The Member of the Wedding.

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    1. Try it again! There seem to be a few of us that were in that boat.

      I need to read more Carson McCullers now. Not sure how I went this long without her.

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  11. All these book recommendations make me sad that I haven't read as much this summer as I would like to (I think I read maybe 3 books all summer? And I'm an English teacher!)

    That idea about taking a vacation somewhere gorgeous just to read sounds lovely... Hmmm...

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    1. It really helps that I've been taking the bus to work (too hot to run!), which guarantees me 45 minutes of reading each day, generally.

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  12. I really enjoy your book recommendations. There is so much out there it is nice to have someone filter it for you. I have been reading the Amelia Peabody series (in order) since you recommended it and am enjoying them. I have recommended the series to several other people as well. Keep em coming.

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    1. Yay! The Amelia Peabody series is one of my all time favorites. I'm so glad you like them too.

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  13. Wow what a fantastic list! Some of those I need to check out. I read Denis Hickey's Breaking Free this summer. I am so glad I did, what an inspiration memoir of personal growth. I usually don't want to go that heavy as a beach read, but I am very happy I did. http://www.breakingfree-thebooks.com/ I recommend it!

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  14. I love the tea shop mysteries too, so you are not alone! I might be a bit biased because I love tea so much that anything to do with it is already a win for me, but they are just so comforting!

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  15. I love reading the work of Cormac McCarthy, really makes me catch up on my high school Spanish skills too.
    I actually went as Anton Chigurh for Halloween last year- pretty. freaky.

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  16. I really enjoyed White Teeth. For the mysteries, have you read Minette Walters? I devoured everything she's written after discovering her!

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    1. I haven't read Minette Walters! Thank you for the rec - I'm always so excited to hear about new (to me) mystery authors!

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  17. ha! beautiful ruins was totally my vacation book on our trip to so cal just now. it is indeed perfect for that sort of reading. two confessions about that book:

    1) i was wavering between it and the new tom wolfe at the airport bookstore - BR had really good blurbs and new york times endorsements, but the book itself was kind of shiny and lightweight-looking. i picked it anyway and, as i purchased it, realized that jess walter is a man, not a woman. this was an unequivocal relief, and i hated myself for feeling that feeling. this is probably why i deserved

    2) the extreme horror i felt when he returned at the end of the book to the scene with maria in the whorehouse and referred to her trade as "slopping dongs." is that what she herself would have called it? was it supposed to be a joke? the language in the rest of the book is so sensitive and david-mitchell-y that i was utterly shocked to hit that phrase. i'd have dragged a needle across a record if i'd been sitting next to a turntable. did that language bother you? i don't want to mention it when i talk about the book on my site because i feel like it would color the impression of someone who hadn't read it yet, and no one should read beautiful ruins waiting for dongs, as it were.

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    1. 1. Yes, I didn't mention that because I fear it makes me a terrible person, but I had the same experience. I think the escapist cover, combined with the mental thought of a female author, made me concerned it would be chick lit? I hate myself for everything about that sentence, but re-phrasing it wouldn't change the fact that I had the thought, so I'll let it stand.

      2. Yes, that was jarring and strange! I also REALLY hated the texting language, in both this and the other novel I read by him. It just read as fake and try hard(maybe I just don't know anyone who actually texts that inanely?) and it took me out of the moment every single time.

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    2. oh god yes, the texting. is this because we got smartphones years after everyone else did? if so, lucky us.

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  18. Designing 'BABY ART' with lights are attractive!

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  19. I enjoyed reading Jennifer Saunders' memoirs, Bonkers. It's a feel-good read, something that you want to read before going to bed or enjoying a cup of tea! Here are some reviews: http://www.bookworld.com.au/book/bonkers-my-life-in-laughs/40832750/

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