Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reading, lately

I've been busy lately, which means less reading in general and also more re-reading. I need to get myself restocked because I've currently fallen into re-reading the Game of Thrones series and that really isn't necessary.

Delicious! - Lauren sent me her copy after I mentioned reading Garlic and Sapphires and I tore through it. It's a novel by Ruth Reichl and it was fun to read it having just come off G&S because I recognized the inspiration for many of the scenes. It's absorbing, well written if not terribly deep, and it contains a story within a story with an intriguing premise. I will say this - it's probably best if Reichl sticks to food descriptions and stays away from fashion.

Dancing with the Virgins and One Last Breath - I'm always looking for new mystery series and these ones by Stephen Booth are pretty good. They're set in England and feel moody and tense.

Lots and lots of Sue Grafton (F, G, I, O, U, R, N) - She remains my favorite mystery series author. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a funny voice.

The Goldfinch - Everyone was talking about it, so I put myself on the library waiting list and then somehow got the idea that this was about child abuse so I avoided it until the last possible minute. (I was scarred from reading A Boy Called It as a teenager and I couldn't take that again.) And then it turned out it wasn't about child abuse although there are some deeply depressing childhood experiences. All that confusion aside, I can't figure out why everyone is talking about this book. It's fine. I like the premise and the first few chapters were strong but it's looong, which I wouldn't complain about except it gets bogged down several times and feels a bit snoozy. And by the end I was completely out of patience with the narrator, which made things more difficult. I wouldn't tell anyone not to read it, but if you have limited reading time I'm not sure if this is your best use of it. But seriously - why are you all reading this one? Did I miss something?

Several Marcia Mullers (Pennies on a Dead Woman's Eyes, The Cheshire Cat's Eye, Eye of the Storm, Dead Midnight, Games to Keep the Dark Away, Vanishing Point) - Because I ran out of Sue Grafton. Another female private eye series. Many of these were re-reads but it's been over a decade so they felt fairly new.

The Moon Sisters - A randomly chosen novel that ended up being quite good. It's sort of sweet and dreamy. It follows two sisters (one severely practical, one with her head in the clouds) as they deal with the death of her mother and her unfinished novel. It feels a little fairy tale like and I enjoyed it.

Elizabeth Peters re-reads (Children of the Storm, Laughter of Dead Kings) - Because sometimes nothing else will do.

Where I Was From - I want to like Didion but I never seem to manage. I think this indicates a deep well of literary failure in my soul but I can't help it. This book was more history, less novel, and to be fair my head was probably too full of outside issues to hold much of substance, but dear god, there were so many names tossed around in there. I'm terrible with character names and I know it's a problem, but all these ancestors were appearing and disappearing and I had to struggle through, much like the settlers Didion describes. I'm going to try again (have three of her novels on my waitlist right now at the library) but I'm worried that Didion and I will never get along. Previous exhibit - my deep, guilty dislike of Blue Nights.

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year - I saw Anne Lamott speak once almost a decade ago (that's how long this book has been on my list) and she is pretty charming. I love people who are open about how neurotic they are without celebrating it. I'm not sure i could be friends with Lamott but I really enjoyed reading her reflections on solo parenting in real time. You can tear through this book and you'll probably laugh a lot.

L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food - I have had my ups and downs with Roy Choi. I'm a (hugely dorky) fan of celebrity food figures due to my obsession with Top Chef and Choi's guest appearances didn't endear him to me. He comes off as a little try hard and overly self obsessed. But then I heard several radio interviews with him when this book was coming out and he sounded more self-deprecating than I remembered and I do love a hard luck story. Well, the book is worth reading, if you love behind the scenes food information and are willing to overlook some cheesy language. And it's true that Choi's early childhood was pretty rough, while his parents scrabbled to find a way to support the family. But as an Orange native I have to tell you that Villa Park, where Choi's family settled when he was just 12, is the ritzy part of town. I'm not arguing that he didn't have some significant struggles, I just had a hard time hearing them hashed out in great detail while being fully aware that his family was willing and able to step in and support him through any and all crises. I loved hearing about running hotel kitchens and would have loved more in depth information about how he built his restaurants (the book only goes to the opening of the Kogi truck). I guess I would have liked more food, less detail about how tough he's had it

P.S. - Saw Chef, which Choi consulted on, and really enjoyed it. Sweet story, so much good food footage. At one point the whole audience groaned when the camera did a close up on some sizzling hash browns. When the credits rolled someone hissed when Roy Choi's name came on the screen. Hissed! Like he was a Shakespearean villain! So let me clarify that I don't think he is evil and I will happily eat his food, he just makes me roll my eyes a bit and whether or not that's fair is up for debate.


40 comments:

  1. I enjoyed the Goldfinch - I totally get what you're saying about it being long (it took me forever to get through the whole thing) but I kept coming back to it and loved the interactions between characters and the changes in Theo's life over time. I felt like I was reading this long, beautiful memoir of his life - a realistic portrayal of all the wonderful and horrible things that happen to people.

    Anyway. I get the criticism, but think it's worth a read. I think I'll read it again in a few months to digest it even more.

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    1. Maybe the way you read it makes a difference? I sort of plowed through it over a few days (long bus commute means I read through things pretty quickly) and maybe that contributed to feeling like it was a marathon. Maybe if I'd been coming and going a bit more it wouldn't have felt so sloggy?

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  2. I'm TOTALLY with you on Goldfinch. I mean, it was fine. But I wasn't nearly as obsessed with it as a lot of people were.

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  3. I couldn't agree more on The Goldfinch. I mean, it was ok. The first third was the most interesting to me, but the author gets pretty far from the premise after that. And then it just went ON and ON and ON. By the last third I was skipping whole pages because jeez, enough.

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  4. I felt like reading the Goldfinch was a punishment after the first 100 pages. I know you would never do this but I read 600 pages and then decided to cut my losses.

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  5. The comments about Goldfinch are so interesting. I just love, love, love her prose - the way that she constructs her sentences are so interesting, that I'm captivated. I'm with you on the narrator though - hard to like.

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  6. So glad to hear I'm not the only one who felt that way about The Goldfinch. Yes, it was an ok book but I didn't get all the extreme hype over it. There were so many other books from last year that I enjoyed and felt were better; Americah, for one.

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    1. Oooh - haven't read that one! I'm going to check and see if I can get on the list for it.

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    2. Yes, Americanah! (that's what happens when I'm typing too quickly)

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  7. hearing that fellow readers whose opinions i treasure are also less than enchanted with the goldfinch just warms my shriveled heart of tar. it just isn't a notable book, unless you consider it notable that she's pilfering from gary shteyngart and charles dickens left and right and manages to be way, way less than the sum of those parts. she overwrites and underwhelms, man.

    i'm developing a taste for bad fashion writing in books about other things; those sections of delicious! amused the hell out of me, as you know. did you ever read deborah harkness's a discovery of witches and shadow of night? some seriously excellent professor-fashion in there - lots of jewel-tone turtlenecks that set off the heroine's flashing eyes and just-so yoga pants that reveal her subtle rower's muscles.

    in other book news, the library tells me my copy of hamlet's dresser reserved on your recommendation) is ready for pickup. woo hoo!

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    1. Have not read those! I think professor fashion is it's own genre, so to speak. I just tried to add those and ended up on the wait list for the first one, but was able to check out the second one. Trying to do a series is always tricky when working through the library.

      Hope you enjoy it! I read it years ago but really enjoyed it.

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  8. The Goldfinch. THANK YOU. I thought I was the only one and I just didn't understand the hype.

    Oh my goodness, The Boy Called It. I'm not sure I'll ever recover from that book. I need to stay away from books where there are sad childhood situations, I guess I am way too sensitive considering I become depressed for weeks after reading them.

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    1. I seriously have never recovered. I certainly don't want to pretend horrible child abuse doesn't exist, so I feel guilty about saying this, but I think I could have done without reading that book. It haunts me.

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  9. YEAH! I love your reading lists!

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  10. Agreed about The Goldfinch and glad I'm not the only one.

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  11. If you're looking for a new mystery series, I recommend the Claire DeWitt books by Sara Gran. There are only two in the series so far, but I think they're excellent and real genre-bender, page-turner masterpieces. They are much darker and seedier than your typical mystery-with-female-protagonist, but with a wicked and sly sense of humor. The first book, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, is set in post-Katrina New Orleans. Definitely worth your time to check out.

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    1. AM I?! I am always hunting for new series, thank you! Got super lucky and those were both available from the library - going to be so well stocked!

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  12. love your book reviews-they help me fill in the blanks when I am searching for something to read. I am currently reading the Patrick Bowers series by Steven James-they are pretty good

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    1. Thank you! Added that series to my library wish list, so hopefully I'll get to it this summer!

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  13. So this question has absolutely nothing to do with reading (though I will say I love your recs! Just finished The Dinner and The Sisters Brothers), but I have a kitchen gear related question! I oscillated between leaving the question here on your latest post or on the kitchen review post, but I didn't know if you check those comments anymore.

    I think I remember seeing bormioli glass pitchers (with the red and green caps) on an old post of yours, would you recommend them? They look like the perfect size for my fridge, but the amazon reviews are so mixed, a lot of people say they don't pour evenly. Have you found that to be the case?

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    1. I know exactly which pitcher you're talking about and I love it - haven't noticed any pouring issues! BUT I'm not sure what brand it is. It was a gift and I'm pretty sure it was from Ross or somewhere similar. Looking at the pictures of the Bormioli, I'm not sure that's it. It *might* be a luminarc quadro? Or it could just be an older version of the bormioli, but the pattern on the sides is different and the handle shape looks more like the Luminarc. I have a side view picture of it on this post, if you want to take a closer look.

      Feel free to leave comments wherever! Luckily, the way blogger pushes them through now makes it pretty easy for me to see them regardless of which post they're on. (As long as I'm on top of them and don't let things get buried!)

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  14. And my reading list grows yet again! Thank you so much for this list. And I'm sorry I have to ask, do you usually read books from the library or do you buy them yourself? I hope it's not too nosy a question.

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    1. Oh, not nosy at all! I'm almost exclusively a library reader, which is why my reading can be a little random. I'll generally just take what's available and then go on the wait list if there's something I really want. It means I sometimes wait several months to get a book, but that's okay.

      I do treat myself to books sometimes, particularly around holidays and vacations or if they're favorites that I know I'll want to re-read, but I read so much in general that without the library I would be spending A TON of money and just accumulating stuff I'd never look at again.

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  15. I really, really loved Where I Was From. But it's not a novel...it's an essay/essays on her relationship with California and the overall "California myth". I found it a fantastic book on how our own narratives create the "history" of a place, so I would recommend reading it again and forgetting about all the ancestor names.

    Love these round-ups that you do!

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    1. Yes, I'm not sure why I thought it was a novel/personal memoir when I checked it out! It became clear right away that it wasn't.

      I think I just have issues with her. I'm going to go back and read a couple of her actual novels to see if those work better for me than her more personal pieces.

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  16. WOW re: all the comments about The Goldfinch! But yeah, that book has been super hyped-up. So now I'm doubly skeptical. I will prioritize some other books I wanna read instead.

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  17. Well crap. I just picked up (bought!) a copy of The Goldfinch. I was too curious about the hype, so I had to just get it. Since you like mysteries, have you read The Cuckoo's Calling (JK Rowling)? I enjoyed it a lot. Also currently reading Night Film (Pessl) - not too far into it, but it's a creepy mystery as well, and it's keeping me occupied so far.

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    1. Oh, don't let me discourage you! It wasn't a terrible book, I was just confused by all the excitement over it.

      I'll have to see if I can check out Night Film!

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  18. I totally didn't get the Goldfinch hype. I slogged through to the end, because people on Instagram told me they'd kept reading though the night, so I was waiting for something amazing to happen. If I read a book that length I want it to be really worth it - like What is the What or A Fine Balance - but this was so disappointing.

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  19. I had to read Slouching Towards Bethlehem in high school and didn't enjoy her writing much either. I gave it another try this summer and I actually became pretty fond and appreciative (?) of her writing! Maybe it has to do with it not being assigned, maybe it has to do with college but I dunno, haven't read her other books before. Just discovered your blog this month and I'm a loyal reader :)

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  20. I love these reading lately lists, and I'm also an Orange native! What a small world!

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  21. OH YES. I have been waiting for this. xox

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