I've been taking my reading a little more slowly than usual, in deference to my eyes. Let me tell you, lying around with your eyes closed is boring. I've been trying to make the enforced downtime feel useful by practicing timed breathing or listening to guided meditations, which makes it more bearable, but I still miss devouring books.
Runaway - Alice Munro's short stories are always lovely. These are simple, finely drawn pictures of people's lives. I loved that some of the characters spanned a couple of stories. Short stories are a double edged sword. I love the uncertainty and possibility you're left with at the end of a piece when everything isn't neatly wrapped up. On the other hand, it can be hard to let go of the characters. Having a story extended over a few "chapters" is a nice in-between.
The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories - Another set of short stories. I was just feeling it that week. These stories are darkly funny, emphasis on the dark. There were a surprising number of boats (ships?) worked in and I'll admit it took me two tries to get drawn into the title story mostly because my eyes glaze over at boat details. BUT it picked up quickly and I ended up really enjoying these.
The Artist of Disappearance - I think I had a Kindle fail here. I checked this out from the library as an e-book and it was the single titular novella. Apparently there are supposed to be three included, so I'll need to check out the print version to read the other two. Bummer. It was a beautiful, haunting short story about a solitary man who expresses himself through the creation of Andy Goldsworthy-esque nature art.
The Lowland - I've loved Jhumpa Lahiri since Interpreter of Maladies, and this was no exception. Her writing is lyrical but still pointed and it's easy to fall right into her stories. This novel is about two brothers, two continents, family loyalty and betrayals. I was expecting this to be another series of short stories and was already feeling sad about leaving the brothers behind when I realized it was a novel. Score.
My Hollywood - I'm not completely sure how to talk about this book. It revolves around a couple of families and their relationships with their nannies, set in a wealthy area in LA. As I read the book I felt more and more depressed, which was maybe the intention. The narration is split between the mother and the nanny and I was mildly uncomfortable with the broken English used for the nanny (too easily offended? quite possibly). I also thought the ending was a little too movie-ish. Maybe appropriate given the title?
Casebook - This is another novel by Mona Simpson and I enjoyed it much more than My Hollywood. You're witnessing a divorce (and the subsequent years) from the point of view of a young boy who is spying on his parents. As a narrator, Miles is engaging and the story carries. There's still something about Simpson's writing that just isn't my favorite but it's hard to put my finger on it. I think it feels a little pat and it's more plot driven than descriptive, sometimes.
Americanah - Everyone and their mother (and my own stepmother) recommended this book to me and it didn't disappoint. It follows a woman as she travels from her native Nigeria to the east coast of America and then back again. The story is good, the writing is sharp and the descriptions are wonderful. The only thing I'll quibble with is that the main character is supposed to be a blogger and the descriptions of her blog taking off like wildfire and growing into a lucrative business accidentally was a little hard to swallow. I mean, there is a huge difference between a hobby blog and one that you actively make money with and one of them requires a whoooole lot more in the way of effort, marketing, etc. But it's just a plot point and I was able to push that aside. The commentary on race in America was interesting. That is the world's flattest sentence, but I've tried rewriting it a bunch of times and it's tough to explain. I can't say how true it is or how well described it was, because I'm a white woman and I feel like everything I try to say about how wonderful it is comes off as condescending or oblivious or try-hard. Now I'm trying to craft a follow up sentence and failing. Let me just say that I really enjoyed this book and it gave me an amazing, observational peek on someone else's perspective.
All Souls Trilogy (A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, The Book of Life) - Lauren and I share a love of decently written supernatural novels (no Twilight, thanks) and when she started reading this trilogy I had to jump in (two years later, after all three had been released). It's a tough one to criticize because the author is so clearly earnest and enjoying herself and I don't want to stomp on that. But I think it's fair to say that it gets a little weird. The basic premise is that a Yale University professor, who happens to be a witch, falls head over heels for a mysterious stranger who turns out to be a vampire. Chaos ensues. The first one is pretty solid, the second one gets a bit lost due to a time traveling plot that allows Harkness to get caught up in her obvious love of history (she's a history professor, as I was not in the least bit surprised to discover later). By the third one, I was feeling irked with the main characters and their obsessive love affair, complete with some of the most embarrassing sex scenes I've ever read. It's as if your favorite professor decided to write tasteful, terribly boring porn. All that said, if you like this genre, you'll probably enjoy it quite a bit. Harkness does a good job of building up the supernatural world and the main plot is engaging, although there's a lot of meandering so you just need to give in and be patient. You can go ahead and skim the vampire-witch action bits unless you're into that sort of thing. Lauren has a description of the first book up that's both funnier and better written than my rather vague overview.
Never Go Back (a Jack Reacher novel) - Not my favorite Jack Reacher but still enjoyable. It got a wee bit convoluted, which can happen with thrillers, especially if they involve the military. I'm not ready to say the series is going downhill, because I think it just has occasional misses.
Dust (a Kay Scarpetta novel) - I am obviously a crazy masochist, because that is the only possible way to explain the fact that I'm still reading this series. Every time I see that there's a new one out I have to grit my teeth and take a deep breath before diving in. I know it will be horrible but I still do it and then sometimes I re-read Cause of Death to remind myself that it wasn't always so bad. But guys, it's gotten bad. If I were any less compulsive I'd have stopped reading these years ago because at this point it's basically torturous.