Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Reading, lately

2016 got off to a slow start for me, reading wise. The move was definitely taking up most of my time and then for a while I was on the waitlist for a ton of books but none of them seemed to be arriving, so I just re-read a bunch of stuff (I do love having a bookshelf in my house again, with all my old favorites). New reads only here:

A God in Ruins - I love Kate Atkinson, so I was excited to get to this one. It was beautiful and follows the same family as Life After Life. I think Life After Life remains my favorite, but only because I tended to start skimming when it got to the really technical plane details in this one. I'm sorry, I don't care about planes, but this book almost convinced me.

Where All Light Tends to Go - Such a good title, right? This novel was fairly well done, and so sad. I had a hard time at first really believing in the characters, mostly because the underlying plot premise is a little tired (bad boy loves a girl who is too good for him) but I got attached to them as I read further and I will fully admit that the ending surprised me.

Among the Missing (by Morag Joss - there are so many books with this title!) - This was tense and creepy and I really enjoyed it. A woman who is feeling uncertain about her life seizes the opportunity to suddenly disappear. For several chapters in the middle I thought this had transitioned to an interesting novel, rather than a thriller, but no. It gets creepy again and it's good.

Bull Mountain - I thought this was a novel when I started reading it, but it's actually more of a mystery/thriller about a family of outlaws (and one rogue brother who becomes a sheriff) in Appalachia. It has a rough start, at least for me, because it's a ton of dialogue and that is so hard to get right. The long paragraphs of conversation felt clunky to me, and not realistic. But as the plot picks up and the conversation dies down a bit, I was pulled right in. The wrap up to this book is pretty crazy, in a good way.

Secrets from the Eating Lab - An interesting look at diets, eating, etc. I mostly read this because I loooove reading the behind the scenes information about food studies. The set ups are so tricky! I liked this book and it's very accessible for the layman. Perhaps too accessible? There are a ton of footnotes but it's light on much actual scientific information so you'd have to dig to read more about the studies - that might not bother you if you don't like reading actual studies but I'm always curious about how robust they actually are. Anyways, if you want to feel justified in never dieting again (a worthy ambition, I think), you will probably enjoy this book.

Depraved Heart (new Patricia Cornwell) - OMG, so bad. At this point I think the only possible explanation for this terrible-ness of this series is that all the bus billboards have gone to Cornwell's head and she refuses to accept any input from an editor. Either that or they're in cahoots and just testing us to see when we'll stop reading. It's not just the insane plots, guys, there are sentences in here that I had to re-read multiple times to figure out what she was trying to say. I know, I know - why continue to read these? I have no good answer for that. I've been reading this series since I was 13 and my mom asked the used bookstore lady what she would recommend next for a girl who had read all the Agatha Christie mysteries already (note - this was a terrible recommendation for a 13 year old. I'm pretty sure I didn't sleep for a month). Every time a new one comes out, I dutifully put myself on the wait list at the library and then kind of dread getting the email notification that lets me know it's my turn. This probably indicates some type of deep rooted psychological problem.

Gold Fame Citrus - This might have hit a little too close to home for me, since it's set in a near future scenario where California has completely run out of water and the remaining inhabitants live in a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Reading this as we experienced our hottest February on record (when the promised El NiƱo rains had failed to materialize) made me feel incredibly anxious. Drought aside, I'm still a little torn on it. The writing is sometimes beautifully lyrical, but other times it felt like it was working too hard to be lyrical and the plot sometimes drove me a little mad. But all in all, I liked it more as I got further into it. 

A Manual for Cleaning Women - And then I moved right on to this collection of short stories, which is both lyrical and cutting and feels effortless. There are a lot of stories in here and many of them are wonderful. There are just a few that fell flat for me, but in a collection this big that isn't really surprising. I had a hard time slowing myself down while I was reading these and it was one of those books where I wanted to be re-reading it even as I was reading it for the first time, if that makes sense. As soon as I finished I started selectively re-reading some of them, but it's turning into most of them.

As seems to happen with the library, after the dry-spell of February I suddenly started getting emails this last week that all the books I've been waiting for have come in, and now I'm going to have to really set aside some time to try to get to them all before my loan period is up. Which probably means I should be putting some books on hold now, so that I don't hit empty as soon as I finish this current batch. What are you guys reading?

36 comments:

  1. I love your book posts! I just finished a few books. I read Disclaimer at your recommendation and really enjoyed it. Before I Go to Sleep was a great twisty thriller and I really enjoyed that as well. About to start We Were Liars and it has drastically different reviews.

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    1. Oooh - thanks! I'll put that one my list!

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  2. I have A God In Ruins on my nightstand and I just can't get into it. I had the same problem with Life After Life which I eventually got into and loved so I'm going to keep at it with AGIR after your review. I've got Beautiful Ruins in that stack as well, which I started on audio during a road trip last year and really enjoyed but had to stop because my loan period was up.

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    1. I would say keep at it! Once you're caught up in it, it's great, especially if you liked LAL.

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  3. I love your book posts so much :) I'll definitely be checking out A God In Ruins! I know I'm a little a late, but I just finished All the Light We Cannot See an absolutely loved it- gorgeously written and well-paced. I'm almost halfway through Americannah now and this one will be another high recommendation (so far).

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    1. Oh, loved both All the Light We Cannot See and Americannah!

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  4. ♥ your reading updates! And, okay, I'm pretty excited to see two of my favorites up there! I completely agree re: Gold Fame Citrus (loved it) and that it hits so close to home. I am from Nevada and so is the author and it's kind of just amazing to me that she wrote that. And Where All Light Tends To Go is sad but it's nice to be surprised by an ending every one and a while. Going to check out Among the Missing.

    I just read a great thriller on recommendation -- Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes. It was written in such a suspenseful way even if the underlying story has been done (Sleeping With the Enemy vibe). I also loved the re-imagining of Jane Eyre as a serial killer -- Jane Steele. Kind of cheeky but fun. The Passenger is getting a lot of praise but I didn't like it and the ending drove me nuts -- so unsatisfying.

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    1. Oh, I have to admit I love Lisa Lutz's writing, so I'd be willing to read The Passenger. Have you read any of her Spellman series?

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    2. I love the series. They're comedic detective novels, so probably a pretty specific audience, but I find them hilarious and crack up while I read them.

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  5. Love these posts! I always find a few to put on my Goodreads list :) I'm currently reading "A Wilder Life" and really enjoying it -- did you read/love the Little House series as a kid? If so, you'll dig this one, this girl goes round to all the homesites and churns butter and stuff. :)

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    1. You bet I did! I'll have to check that out. I love the Little House series so much.

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    2. Ack, me too. I just reread Big Woods. Such nostalgia for a life I never lived! :)

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  6. I LOVED g-d in ruins - I'd read life after life, but couldn't get into it, and then after g-d in ruins, tried life after life again and loved it so much that I read it twice!

    I think that you'd love "my name is lucy barton" - I just loved it.

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    1. Thank you! I'll look that one up.

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  7. Love your book posts! After waiting a few weeks on the hold list, I finally got my hands on All the Light We Cannot See- beautiful language, romantic plotting almost veering towards magical realism. The Flamethrowers was an immensely satisfying read and features one of the most magnetic female protagonists I've encountered. And I really enjoyed Young Skins, a short story collection from Ireland.

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    1. I looooved All the Light We Cannot See. So beautiful and immersive. I'll have to check out your other recs!

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  8. I love your "reading lately" posts! I immediately add them all to my goodreads list :) thank you for sharing!!

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  9. I really enjoy your posts. Not sure you read nonfiction often, but I loved "H is for Hawk" by Helen MacDonald, a memoir of falconry and healing. Her writing is amazing. If you want to go classic fiction, I recommend "Angle of Repose" by Wallace Stegner, about California settlers in and around North/Central CA. A great female protaganist and some neat insight into life around 1900 in the west, mining, women's careers and status.

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    1. H is for Hawk is next on my list! I finally got the notification from the library that it was my turn and I'm looking forward to it.

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  10. Totally feel you on Patricia Cornwell!! I, too, started reading her around age 13-14 (my step-mom actually recommended her after I exhausted all of the Dean Koontz and Stephen King we owned). But, I had to stop after Blow Fly (so disappointingly bad). I totally commend you for sticking in there!

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    1. I'm not so sure it's commendable (more like compulsive) but thank you! I think you probably picked the wiser path. I don't know why all her characters are so deeply miserable these days, but it makes the books so depressing. Like, why can't you just be happy every once in a while, Scarpetta? Why the unrelenting misery and whining and feeling persecuted? They're all totally unrelatable at this point and they all seem to hate each other.

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  11. I think I've officially finally given up on Patricia Cornwell. I don't even have a desire to pit this one on hold. Her books have just been so awful, which is a shame, because her earlier ones were fantastic.

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    1. I know, I loved the early ones! I'll still re-read some of them, even though they focus so heavily on technology that they are super dated. I don't really understand why they went downhill so sharply but it makes me sad.

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  13. Thanks for all these recs, Rachel! I just finished Wolf Hall and became so invested in the characters that I moved right on to Bring Up the Bodies. I also have The Idea Factory and An Abundance of Katherines checked out, but they're gonna have to wait!

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    1. I'll have to try it! I love historical fiction, and I don't read it nearly enough anymore.

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  14. Like the book posts, but I live far far away from a library, so I am always scrounging for cheap books. I did just spend 16 dollars on Kate Morton's The Distant Hours, I'll send it to my sister when I am done. And I lucked out in Jimbocho, down the street from where I teach. I got a PILE of books for 2 dollars each. I got some Agatha Christies, and I am enjoying the pure puzzles she put out. I got Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage, which I read ages ago, long enough ago to have forgotten. And a book called Keeper, by Andrea Gillies, about a woman taking care of her mother who has Alzheimer's. This may be my fate, so I am interested. I love books.

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    1. Agatha Christie is my first murder mystery love, and my entire collection came from the used bookstore. They're so good!

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  15. Always always love your posts Rachel, and the book ones are the best! Have you read any Elena Ferrante? She wrote a series of novels about two friends growing up in Naples in the 50s...first one is called 'my brilliant friend'. So good! I also read 'cutting for stone' on recommendation of a friend and it was EXCELLENT.

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    1. Yes! I've read the first one, and I'm on the waiting list for the second one now.

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  16. I am re-reading The Passage and then The Twelve again, in anticipation of City of Mirrors which finally comes out in May, as you probably already know! You got me hooked on this series and I will always be thankful! Love your book suggestions! I will check out Gold Fame Citrus... sounds like a good one.

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    1. So excited for that!!!! Even though I'll probably have to wait a year to get it from the library. Maybe I'll treat myself and buy it ...

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  17. i have been meaning to read GOLD FAME CITRUS, and will have to formally add it to the library / buy-it-if-i-find-it-at-my-bookstore list. with the patricia cornwell - maybe someone else is ghostwriting them for her at this point, as happens particularly with extremely prolific writers? i don't know if that would be a good thing or a bad thing to know.

    i just started DEATH OF A RED HEROINE, set in about 1990 in shanghai, and communist china a fascinating setting for a murder mystery, even if it's taking a bit to get going. much is made of how the police inspector's recent promotion means that he's been assigned his own apartment, and how old high school friends can now reunite since the cultural revolution is over and they're back from being reeducated in the country. i confess that i set it aside on my vacation to start alexander chee's THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT, which is EXACTLY what to read when you're baking in the sun on a chaise, but i'll return to it soon.

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    1. If you do get to Gold Fame Citrus, I'll be curious to hear what you think of it! I feel like being a CA native made it both better and worse, oddly.

      I feel like if the Cornwell books were ghostwritten they might be better? I think any decent editor would fire a ghostwriter who put out work this low quality. I would actually read a ghostwritten Cornwell happily if they could get the series back on track!

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