Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sydney Books

Read some books over the past two weeks in Sydney. Here now are those books!

How Could She (by Lauren Mechling)
Breezy but heartfelt and comedic meditation on the complexities of female friendship. 

Not Working (by Lisa Owens)
Breezy but heartfelt and comedic meditation on family, love and identity. Written in delightful vignette style. My favorite of these four novels!

Early Riser (by Jasper Fforde)
Not quite as enjoyable as Shades of Gray or the Thursday Next series, primarily because I didn't enjoy the world as much as Bookworld or the color world, but a still a "Ffun" read. Ha!

Fall; or, Dodge in Hell (by Neal Stephenson)
Augh, this one was so frustrating. Started out great, but it's the usual Stephenson thing where it's about 400 pages too long. It turns from speculative fiction about digitally uploaded consciousness (yay) into a fantasy quest novel with so much scenery description (boo) and is super heteronormative to boot. Ultimately we are expected to root for one white billionaire cis man with a God complex over another white billionaire cis man with a God complex. You'd think the author of Seveneves would do better than that.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, October 04, 2019

The Unhoneymooners (by Christina Lauren)

A fun romance with a bit of a stretch, premise-wise (the best man and maid of honor are the only two guests who don't get food poisoning at the wedding, and they go on the couple's honeymoon, and also they hate each other).  However, the characters are a delight, it's truly contemporary and funny, and the set of complications that ensue is convincingly organic!

I also enjoyed the little details -- the family being Latinx, the heroine being on the curvier side and embracing her curves, etc. If you like romcoms, don't miss this one, it's pure, marshmallowy, refreshingly unproblematic entertainment.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era (by Saul Austerlitz)

I learned about this book in Entertainment Weekly, which has now turned into a low-quality monthly magazine, which means my main source of book reviews and news has been pretty much gutted. I love(d) its mix of highbrow and lowbrow recommendations, along with pithy reviews. 

I get my litfic recs from the Tournament of Books and my sci-fi from John Scalzi's Big Idea series, but where will I find reviews of beach reads, young adult novels, women's contemporary, and nonfiction? If anyone has a good source for reviews in any of those genres, let me know, I am bereft and my library holds list is sad now.

Anyway, like many Gen X-ers (remember us? the forgotten generation?) I love Friends and was excited to read this. I wish it were in oral history format; instead it is told in very loose chronological order and has a lot of editorializing by the author. (I hate Donald Trump as much as the next person but did we really need Austerlitz's political musings? Not so much.)  I expected to tear through this like a sleeve of Thin Mints but instead it was kinda slow going.

I basically want to recapture the magic of Live from New York (the first edition only) with other shows I love, but it hasn't happened yet. 

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Lifeboat (by Charlotte Rogan)

I love a good unreliable narrator, so when I heard about this book, about a survivor of a shipwreck on trial for her actions in the lifeboat, I thought it would be right up my alley.

In fact, it dragged. The days on the lifeboat are described in excruciating detail and no new information really emerges. I didn't need all my questions answered in the end but none of them were, really -- so many loose threads. I feel like I "know" what happened, and will put it in the next paragraph, but... [SPOILERS]

Mrs. Fleming dies early on, and it seems fairly clear that Grace killed her based on her accusations about buying her way onto the lifeboat. So the revelation at the end (that she probably also killed Mary Ann for the same reason) doesn't really pack a punch. I already figured that out. I enjoyed piecing together the rest though -- the box probably containing Grace's jewelry, her fake love for Henry, etc.[/SPOILERS]

It's not bad, I guess, but slow going in the middle and the "reveal" reveals nothing much.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

On the Come Up (by Angie Thomas)

Angie Thomas's book should be required reading in schools; she does so much to create empathetic, three-dimensional characters that challenge racial stereotypes, but at the same time her books are entertaining and her heroines are charming!

This heroine is Brianna Jackson, who loves hip-hop and dreams of being a rapper. Her dreams become more urgent when her family, already living on the poverty line, starts slipping beneath it. She has to make some difficult, and incredibly complicated, choices.

The hip hop that Thomas writes -- and her portrayal of Bri's creative mind -- are both incredibly convincing too. I think she is such an important voice in YA lit today.  I personally resonated more with The Hate U Give so I would start there first, but this is still a great novel.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Convenience Store Woman (Sayaka Murata)

What a delightful and strange little book. This book (translated from the Japanese) is about a woman who has worked for the same convenience store for 18 years, and feels that only within its world is she able to be a person that society understands. It is a commentary on social pressure, relationships, and mental differences. The details of the convenience store are rendered lovingly, and the narrator is delightfully unique. I stayed up too late finishing this one, a quick but absorbing read!

And with that, I've officially completed the 2019 Read Harder Challenge! You can scroll to the bottom of this entry to see the full list. Yay!

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (by Rebecca Skloot)

I'm a bit behind the curve on this one, but I needed a book in the journalism category for the Read Harder Challenge, and that reminded me I hadn't read it yet! (Even though I was familiar with the broad outlines of the story and have donated to the Henrietta Lacks Foundation in the past.)

The story is compelling, and Skloot does an amazing service to Lacks's legacy. (As evidenced by all that has happened since the book's publication.) Parts of the story are so sad (the fate of Elsie, Henrietta's marriage and death) but the Lacks family comes to vibrant life and are portrayed in a thoughtful, not-at-all-condescending way, and their resilience and hope for the future is inspiring.

As compelling of a read as everyone promised it was!

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Circe (by Madeline Miller)

Read on the strong recommendation of my book-loving colleagues, and also for the "book of mythology or folklore" category of the RHC.  I also have loved Greek mythology for many years, and often think fondly of my college seminar on the topic. (Shoutout to Hecate, goddess of crossroads, and the myth of Philomela.)

As you might guess, this has easily became one of my favorite reads of the year so far. Such a gorgeous and erudite retelling of the Circe myth, with an ending that is absolute perfection. It is a feminist retelling without being too on-the-nose about it, but damn it's great. I immediately reserved Song of Achilles from the library, because I want more mythology from her!

Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 02, 2019

Cherry (by Nico Walker)

This Read Harder Challenge challenge was definitely a challenge.The category is "A book written in prison." Obviously I've read "A Letter from Birmingham Jail" (masterful) but I consider it more of an essay and I don't use re-reads for this category. So I started and abandoned De Profundis, Our Lady of the Flowers and (about halfway through) No Friend But the Mountains, before picking up Cherry. Despite the brisk writing style, this one took me a while too; to give you some context, while reading this I also re-read Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and the last two Harry Potter books. But I pushed through.

This is an autobiographical novel by Nico Walker, an Iraq veteran and drug addict who is in prison (to this day) for robbing banks. His unnamed narrator has the same story arc. I found the war parts hard to get through for some reason, although you'd think knowing me that it would have been all the heroin injecting.  (Shoutout here to The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, the reason I was able to read those parts at all.)

This book is darkly funny and a compelling read, but I wouldn't have finished it without the Challenge.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel (by Anthony Horowitz)

Taking a break from trying to make it through the "book written in a prison" category for the Read Harder Challenge (I'm on my third book) to read a "new" Sherlock Holmes mystery by Anthony Horowitz.

He does a great job of capturing Conan Doyle's voice, and also John Watson's as the narrator. It does feel a bit like he's making sure to squeeze in all of Sherlock's greatest hits (from a clever disguise to Mycroft to a Moriarty cameo) but it comes together well. Worth a read for Holmes fans who are interested.

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 12, 2019

Since You’ve Been Gone (by Morgan Matson)

I love a good summertime YA in the summer! Our protagonist Emily only has one friend, a manic pixie dream girl named Sloane. When Sloane disappears, leaving Emily a list of tasks to push her out of her comfort zone, she decides to try the tasks in the hope of finding Sloane again.

Emily is likeable in her willingness to slowly come out of her very hard shell over the course of the summer. The friendships that build over the course of the novel (and the romance too, of course) are charming. Weirdly there are a lot of typos in the Kindle edition. But I enjoyed this nevertheless.

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 05, 2019

A Couple of Gossipy Hollywood Books

The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont (by Shawn Levy)

Chateau Marmont is on Sunset Boulevard and has been a fixture in Hollywood since the early days. I loved reading the history of the building and the people who have stayed there, which dovetails with the history of Hollywood the place as well as the industry itself. As opposed to the second book on my list (see below) this is meticulously sourced and researched, and full of interesting gossip as well as historical perspective. Recommended!

Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars (by Scotty Bowers)

I considered using the tags "graphic novel" and "fantasy" for this. The graphic part comes in because the sexual secrets of the stars are examined in more detail than you'd ever want, and the fantasy party because in the clear light of day, it seems like half of this has to be made-up or exaggerated.  But you go along for the ride anyway, and read about Scotty Bowers having had every kind of sexual encounter under the sun, including some very uncomfortable childhood experiences that he is at pains to mention he was totally fine with. Some of the sex secrtets get gross, but it's also interesting to find out more about Katharine Hepburn's lesbianism and Cary Grant's relationship with Randolph Scott, to name just a couple. Everyone in Hollywood -- man or woman -- seemingly met Scotty Bowers,  became his "very good friend" and then jumped into bed with him. Oh and also he was cheating on one of his wives the whole time too. This was crazy trash but who could put it down?

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Bees (by Laline Paull)

Found this via the Read Harder Challenge group on Goodreads, which recommended this for the category of "book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character." In fact, the main character is Flora 717, a honeybee.

Paull draws from the science of bees, as I found out when I went looking up how bees reproduce and found that hive life is just as insane as it is portrayed here. But it's easy to sympathize with Flora, a sanitation bee who ends up with special talents that allow her to experience different aspects of life in the beehive.

I mentioned to my friend Miriam that the gender politics are interesting here, and indeed they are. Spoiler alert: I especially enjoyed the scene where all the lady bees decided the man bees were lazy and worthless and then bloodily massacred them all. #mood.

I'm gathering from friends' Goodreads reviews that this is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it read, so your mileage may vary, but I loved it.

Labels: , , ,

The Sentence Is Death (by Anthony Horowitz)

The second book in Horowitz's metafictional series. He inserts himself as a character, a slightly egotistical Watson to a somewhat unpleasant Sherlock Holmes-type detective named Daniel Hawthorne.

I figured out who the murderer was about 60% of the way through (I put it as a Kindle note to prove that I had the right suspect) which isn't the most fun, but a lot of it was a surprise to me nonetheless and the execution was great! I love Horowitz's creativity and style, and pleasantly breezed through this one.

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 22, 2019

Vacation Reads: Hawaiian Cruise Edition

Here are the things I read on planes, ships, and beaches over the past week:

Evvie Drake Starts Over (by Linda Holmes) 

... saved especially so it could be my very first vacation book. So great and grounded and authentic and romantic and perfect. Absolutely loved it. 

Whisper Network (by Chandler Baker)

This novel is Big Little Lies x Lean In ÷ And Then We Came to the End

A bit unrealistic but rah rah feminist, very fun and ultimately satisfying. Loved the framing of the collective voice of women. (The author, Chandler Baker, is also a woman.) Reese will obviously be playing Sloane in the movie.

The Gifted School (by Bruce Holsinger) 

Also very Big Little Lies-esque! But like Whisper Network, adds in in the story of someone who is not white and not privileged. Seems that is a new part of the formula, which I like. Fun chewy interpersonal drama. Some characters (e.g. Kev) never quite crystallized but enjoyed it!

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life (by Samantha Irby)

A collection of humorous essays that fall under the humor category of the Read Harder Challenge. Hilarious but also super relatable. Essays don't tend to be my favorite, so there were a couple of false starts, but I'm glad I powered through and stuck with this one!

The Flatshare (by Beth O’Leary) 

A creampuff of a novel, fun but I doubt it will stick with me. Also do British people say "clock" all the time, drag queen style? Because both the main POV characters here do. (15 times, according to my app.) This is not a rhetorical question, please let me know.

Red, White & Royal Blue (by Casey McQuiston) 

A male-male romance between the son of the U.S. President and an English prince. Set in an alternate reality where a woman was elected president in 2016 (sob) and the world is not a garbage fire (sob, sob). Honestly impossible to fully escape into for that reason, but I loved the romance between these twentysomething characters. It was very reminiscent of Performance in a Leading Role, a rather famous piece of Sherlock fanfiction.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, July 12, 2019

I Hate Everyone But You (by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin)

This is my last post before I go on vacation. I have 22 books checked out on my Kindle and one on paper, so I'm ready! I doubt I'll get through all 23 in a week, but I hope I'll put a dent in the list. (Last time I went on a cruise, my phone died on the very first day and I had to check out a series of weird and sub-par books from the ship library. A truly tragic fate.)

Anyway, I Hate Everyone But You is a joint-written, epistolary YA about two friends who are freshmen at two different colleges, writing emails and texts back and forth. I find epistolary novels very charming in general, for some reason it really works for me.I loved it and was excited to hear there's a sequel coming out in just a few days!

My one complaint about this book is like, okay, you know the movie Beaches? After Hillary gets married she comes to visit CC, and sure CC is pretty self-absorbed and annoying and married to the man HIllary loves, but still Hillary is the worst and is super horrible to her. And then when they reconcile, CC says "it was my fault" and then Hillary, instead of saying "no, I was a horrible cow, I'm the literal worst, please allow me to grovel," says "it was our fault." And then I hate Hillary a tiny bit for the rest of the movie even when she gets sick and dies. It was your fault, Hillary.

So this novel had the "friends have a big fight" of course and the character who I felt was more in the wrong, the Hillary if you will, did not grovel enough, and I did not feel enough of a catharsis, because the other character was too forgiving. And no, the characters' personalities are nothing like the Beaches characters but still. I think you understand where I'm coming from.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, July 07, 2019

In at the Deep End (by Kate Davies)

A British comic novel (at least the first half) about a woman called Julia discovering her sexuality as a lesbian. It starts off hilarious, and I highlighted a bunch of scenes that made me laugh.  For example: Staring into my eyes, he went to push himself into me. He missed. ‘Jesus. That’s never happened before,’ he said. He picked up his penis and guided himself in, frowning as though he was trying to assemble a particularly tricky piece of IKEA furniture.

Julia then gets caught up in an abusive relationship, with some championship gaslighting and questionable portrayals of polyamory and BSDM along the way. It's half lesbian Bridget Jones and half lesbian 50 Shades of Gray. Overall I liked it, but be forewarned that it gets darker and more complicated as it goes along.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

The One (by John Marrs)

Speculative fiction about a world where DNA can tell you your "perfect match." Marrs introduces five characters and shows how their matches unfold. Twists and turns ensue.

I read a review that said "once you pick this up you won't be able to put it down" and indeed, I picked it up and couldn't put it down until I knew how it ended. Stayed up way too late reading, but who doesn't love that experience? I think Gone Girl was the last novel that happened to me with.

The writing is flawed, some stories are better than others (Nick's is the best) but I had to keep turning pages to find the next twist and surprise.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Austin Trip Reads

Time to spend a week in Austin for our team offsite, and thus time to read on airplanes! Here are the four books I finished this week plus one I read the day I came home:

Trust Exercise (by Susan Choi)

Part of Camp ToB. It's narratively playful and postmodern, with point of view changes and so much to discover between the lines. Still pondering the hidden meanings and looking forward to the discussion later this summer.

Eliza and Her Monsters (by Francesca Zappia)

Young adult novel about fandom and anxiety, which treats both with the utmost seriousness. Eliza is an artist who writes an insanely popular web comic, but her identity is secret and at school she is reclusive and anxious. Worlds inevitably collide, with moving results. I immediately picked up another book by Zappia...

Made You Up (by Francesca Zappia)

...whose main character is a high school student with schizophrenia. My notes just say "wow, wow, wow." Again, I ended up in tears by the end. These two books succeed where (sadly) Turtles All the Way Down fails.

Good Riddance (by Elinor Lipman)

A charming and funny romcom, but there is some transphobic and fatphobic language. Not a lot, but here's a content warning nonetheless.  A woman inherits her mother's yearbook and when it fails to "spark joy" she throws it out. It's discovered by a documentary filmmaker (of sorts) and suddenly, family secrets begin to be revealed.  Funny and unpredictable!

Three Laws Lethal (by David Walton)

Speculative fiction that I learned about from John Scalzi's Big Idea feature. It was a really fun page-turner!

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, June 14, 2019

If, Then (by Karen Hope Day)

A fun, fast read about a town in the shadow of a dormant (or "dormant" volcano), four of the neighbors who live there, and what happens when they begin to peek into an alternate timeline and see another way their lives could have gone.

I enjoyed what the author is doing here, and I liked that the "primary" timeline of one character was different than the timeline of the others. Watching Sliding Doors I always thought of them as Good Helen and Bad Helen, and had a timeline I was rooting for. Same thing here.

My quibbles are mostly my inability to turn off my raging feminism: I was annoyed by Mark and didn't care about his white man paranoia and insecurity. Also I hated that one woman's "happy ending" involved dialing back her career to be a better mother. I loved the premise and characters though, and it was a fun page-turner overall.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Mother-In-Law (by Sally Hepworth)

Kind of a Big Little Lies-esque thriller about a woman who has a contentious relationship with her mother-in-law. When the mother-in-law is murdered, we wonder: who did it? Secrets are revealed and drama ensues. A fun little thriller with characters I liked (the mother-in-law herself especially) and an ending I enjoyed.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Daisy Jones & The Six (by Taylor Jenkins Reid)

A novel in the form of an oral history about a Fleetwood Mac-style band in the 70s, and in the summer edition of the Tournament of Books. (I started Bowlaway but it was too twee for me.)

I loved the format and overall enjoyed this, although I had an issue with the ending. Spoilers below:

The book seemed to suggest that Camila is just great, and I think it was a bridge too far to have her be so saintly to Daisy even as she was saying "I never want to see you again" (but only in a nice, kind, concerned way). And Daisy somehow thinks Camila is just great. Then comes the authorial intrusion, which makes no sense if this were a "real" oral history. That broke my suspension of disbelief.

Strangely, the core emotional beats reminded me of Fleabag which pulled off a similar ending perfectly. The problem here is that Camila is not God, but the book thinks she is. However, Camila was kind of a B, sorry about it!

I'm curious to see if anyone else has this take on it. Looks like I'll have to wait until June 26 for that discussion!

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 31, 2019

Three Recommended Romcoms

Comfort reading badly needed at this time, so I finished three books and here they are!

Playing with Matches (by Hannah Orenstein)

A book about a matchmaker written by a woman who used to be a matchmaker herself. Feels very millennial, very real, very charming, very original. Tore through this in a day. Like romcoms? Definite thumbs up on this one.

Save the Date (by Morgan Matson)

Such a charming young adult novel about the Grant family, stars of a nationally syndicated cartoon written by their mother, getting together for a sibling's wedding. The book focuses on Charlotte "Charlie" Grant, the youngest daughter, and the structure and plotting are perfection. It's also often laugh-out-loud funny.

The Bride Test (by Helen Hoang)

By the author of The Kiss Quotient, who is on the autism spectrum and has written a romcom featuring Khai, a Vietnamese-American man with autism. Her leading woman and main character is Esme, a Vietnamese woman his mother meets back home and brings to America so that Esme can potentially marry her son. Misunderstandings ensue, but it also has deep emotional truthfulness. Recommended.

Labels: , , , ,

Sounds Like Titanic (by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman)

This has overtaken the other 43 books I've read this year and has made it to #1. Just phenomenal. Funny, fascinating, yet masterfully written and profound.

Here's the book's blurb:

When aspiring violinist Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman lands a job with a professional ensemble in New York City, she imagines she has achieved her lifelong dream. But the ensemble proves to be a sham. When the group “performs,” the microphones are never on. Instead, the music blares from a CD. The mastermind behind this scheme is a peculiar and mysterious figure known as The Composer, who is gaslighting his audiences with music that sounds suspiciously like the Titanic movie soundtrack. On tour with his chaotic ensemble, Hindman spirals into crises of identity and disillusionment as she “plays” for audiences genuinely moved by the performance, unable to differentiate real from fake.

My assumption was this would be a quirky, funny memoir, but it has so much depth. I am too low on spoons to write anything profound so just read some reviews and then go get this book, its unmissable.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Whale Rider (by Witi Ihimaera)

For the category of "#ownvoices book set in Oceania," I finally read Whale Rider, a book about the Maori people of New Zealand by a Maori author.

I'd seen the movie, and enjoyed it, but not read the book.  My knowledge of Maori culture is limited to general Polynesian awareness and having once seen Whale Rider.  Plus this is a female empowerment film, about a young girl who is destined for greatness and craves her grandfather's approval, but he only thinks a boy can lead her generation. Moana owes a lot to this story as well. Plus, whales! So of course I enjoyed it!

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 27, 2019

Love, Rosie (by Cecelia Ahern)

A rom-com about two lifelong best friends who have deep feelings for each other, but fate intervenes. Will they ever ever ever ever be together?

The characters are charming and you definitely root for them, but the plot machinations are just ridiculous. Rosie's life is depressing, and much of the time it's her own fault. Over the course of the novel there are not one, but two accidental pregnancies -- has nobody heard of condoms? There are not one, not two, but three marriages to patently awful people. Why!?

I kept reading to make sure things turned out okay for Rosie in the end; I mostly wanted her life to stop being so unremittingly miserable. I liked it! It was sweet, I cried, etc. But it's also very flawed.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 26, 2019

A Disposition to Be Rich (by Geoffrey C. Ward)

The subtitle of this book is either "Ferdinand Ward, the Greatest Swindler of the Gilded Age" or "How a Small-Town Pastor’s Son Ruined an American President, Brought on a Wall Street Crash, and Made Himself the Best-Hated Man in the United States." Either way, it's a fascinating non-fiction book about a Bernie Madoff-style character during the Golden Age, written by his great-grandson, Pulitzer nominee Georfrey C. Ward.

I read this for the "non-violent true crime" category of the Read Harder Challenge. (I tried to read The Library Book, but got bored.) This is meticulously footnoted and researched, full of vivid detail about the entire Ward family, and all Ferd's victims (including Ulysses Grant).  The author steps in at the beginning and end to discuss the impact to his family -- his grandfather was Ferd's son, and was once kidnapped by Ferd in order to try and get his hands on family money.

Fascinating portrait of the "family sociopath" and a slice of life in Gilded Age America. Really enjoyed this.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Three Quick Reads

Going through books faster than I can blog about them, but to be fair, two of these were thrillers and those always go fast.

Binti (by Nnedi Okorafor)

Afrofuturistic space adventure featuring an amazing lead character, Binti! Won the Hugo and I think the Nebula award. Read for the category "A book by an AOC set in or about space." This is a novella and was a quick but super great read. Excited to continue with the series!

What the Dead Know (by Laura Lippman)

A fun thriller, albeit with an ending I saw coming about halfway through. I wanted more twists (I really enjoy being surprised) but enjoyed the read overall. 

The Silent Patient (by Alex Michaelides)

Now this is what I'm talking about! This one had a great twist and was a total page-turner! The ending makes no sense if you think about it, like, at all, but I don’t even care, I devoured this.

(Note: in both of these latter two books I highlighted some fatphobic content. Often mysteries introduce a lot of characters that have to be memorable, fast, and a lot of times "fat and grotesque" is a shorthand for these types of characters. Ugh, why.)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, May 10, 2019

Frances and Bernard (by Carlene Bauer)

Read for the RHC category of Epistolary Novel, a genre that I really love. This is loosely based on the correspondence between Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, and is about two writers named Frances and Bernard who meet at a writing colony, discover a mutual interest in Catholicism and writing, and become correspondents. They develop a complex and emotional relationship that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel.

The writing itself is absolutely gorgeous, and I particularly fell in love with Frances, who has this beautifully drawn internal battle; she has to keep from setting herself on fire to keep Bernard warm. The ending is bittersweet and feels so honest and real. (I don't feel any closer to understanding Flannery O'Connor's Catholicism; I will confess that despite going to Catholic schools for 17 years and teaching O'Connor's fiction, I've never truly felt like I understood it.)

Definitely worth a read. 

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 06, 2019

The Actor’s Life (by Jenna Fischer)

I hesitate over the tag "memoir" because although Fischer does go into a lot of depth about her acting career and experiences, the focus is really on practical industry advice for actors.

It found its way to my hold list because I was a big Office fan and like Jenna Fischer, but kept reading because I enjoy reading about "the Industry" as we call it in Los Angeles, from a point of view that I don't often see.  I recommended it to my brother too, since he is an aspiring actor and I truly think the tips in this book are a huge godsend for people trying to break into the biz.

Worth reading for a glimpse of the actor's life, and a glimpse into Fischer's as well.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, May 04, 2019

The New Me (by Halle Butler)

This book popped up in my email ("the book you had on hold is ready to check out") and I had no memory of where I heard about it, what it is, or why I put it on hold. I decided not to find out, so reading it could be a delightful surprise! It turns out that this is the story of a depressed, cynical, and socially awkward temp worker, reminiscent of the wonderful My Year of Rest and Relaxation. 

Mordantly funny, compact, and avoids cliche as it really sticks the landing. If you enjoyed MYoRaR, you will like this too. (I'm betting a sentence like that is what got me to put it on hold in the first place.) In case you're still on the fence, here's a quote:

I think I’m drawn to temp work for the slight atmospheric changes. The new offices and coworkers provide a nice illusion of variety. Like how people switch out their cats’ wet food from Chicken and Liver to Sea Bass, but in the end, it’s all just flavored anus.

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 03, 2019

The Fifth Season (by N.K. Jemisin)

This book and series have gotten so much buzz in the scifi-fantasy community -- the three books of this trilogy won the Best Novel Hugo Award in three consecutive years, among other accolades. So it's been on my list!

I love the worldbuilding Jemisin does here to give us a post-post-apocalyptic earth where some humans have evolved to control planetary movement, and are essentially enslaved by other groups as a result.  The story follows three characters whose stories intersect; two characters are written about in third person and one in second person, and as you slowly realize why, you appreciate her terrific narrative trick.

Hard things happen (including the deaths of children) and if I'd tried to read this a few years ago, as I did Game of Thrones, I probably couldn't have stomached it. But I bore with it and ended up really enjoying being immersed in this world. The second book is on my library hold list now!

Labels: , , ,