Monday, February 26, 2018

Goodbye, Vitamin (by Rachel Khong)

A super enjoyable novel. This is the story of Ruth, who has just gone through a breakup and moves back in with her parents to help care for her father, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

It's not showy or flashy. It quietly explores Ruth's relationship with her father, her experience of her family and her breakup, and her general anchorlessness.  The writing style is captivating and subtle, the observations are wry and astute. All I can say is, a solid, excellent novel.

This is another one that I read in a day and could arguably fit the "read in one-sitting" category of Read Harder Challenge. But still holding out for something that I read through, uninterrupted. (Like on an airplane.)

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

White Tears (by Hari Kunzru)

A Tournament of Books book and this one is... well, it's weird. But the more I think about it, and the experimental course it takes, the more I like it.

It's definitely like side A and side B of a record, which is appropriate since it focuses on a lost blues record by Charles Shaw. Except it turns out the record (and Shaw) was an invention of our two young, white protagonists, Carter and Seth. Or was it? 

This is one to read with an open mind. I don't know how to fully describe it except that it's challenging and fascinating, and does definitely veer far, far away from the "privileged white kids appropriate black music" that it looks like at the beginning.

I can see people hating this book. I was like, "Wait, what is happening right now?"  But I ultimately ended up loving it.  Very interested in the Tournament discussion on this one. And happy to have been introduced to this weird, experimental, but ultimately satisfying novel.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time (by Madeleine L’Engle)

Read this for the first time at the urging of a colleague, in preparation for the upcoming movie. Also it filled a RHC category: "Children’s classic published before 1980. "

This probably would have worked better for me when I was a child. As it is, everything seemed to happen and be over really fast, and the whole "conquer evil with love" thing... I mean... sure. But again, it was resolved super quickly and with a lot of hand-waving. Like, Calvin is one of them after about five minutes and suddenly he and Meg are like, soulmates? Nothing is actually developed organically.

I gather that this is a part of a larger series, but I wanted this story itself to just be fleshed out more. I can imagine this will make a great movie, though!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

So Much Blue (by Percival Everett)

Finally, a winner from this year's Tournament of Books! Percival Everett has apparently written dozens of novels, but I'd never heard of him. Where have I been?

This novel centers on an artist named Kevin Pace and opens with hi talking about his giant, secret piece of abstract artwork that he has shown to nobody.  It interweaves three stories: present-day, 30 years earlier in El Salvador, and 10 years earlier in Paris. Kevin has and keeps many secrets in addition to the painting, and as the novel unfolds, we find out what they are and how everything fits together.

I was least interested in the El Salvador storyline, as it seemed a bit less grounded in reality (to say the least). But I loved how the strands came together in the end; to me, it really worked. Kevin is an interesting narrator who I sympathized with in spite of myself. The writing itself is beautiful. I'm interested in checking out more from Percival Everett and seeing how this does in the ToB. 

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Wedding Date (by Jasmine Guillory)

Not only does The Wedding Date fit a Read Harder Challenge category ("Romance by or about a person of color") and not only has it been getting great reviews, it was also written by a friend of a friend.  Fortunately, it is also great!

This is a romance about Alexa and Drew, who meet cute in an elevator. Alexa is black and Drew is white -- this fact is not ignored but is also not the main focus of their love story. This novel is just the right amount of sexy, charming, romantic, sexy, fun, and sexy. 

A meta note: I read this in one day (as I did with Class Mom) but not sure this qualifies as a "one-sitting book" for challenge purposes since I did, you know, do other things in between.  I will hold off for now and plan to use this category for something I truly read in one sitting (say on an airplane) but reserve the right to retcon this.

Anyway, The Wedding Date! Read it! 

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The Idiot (by Elif Batuman)

I hate to say this because I loved The Possessed, but I almost didn't finish this. The only reason I powered through to the end was because it's in the Tournament of Books, and I always enjoy the discussion more when I have read the book.

I started out really into this. Batuman is a wonderful writer, and this book is full of amazingly observed, funny-sad moments.  However: nothing fucking happens.  I feel like if it had been 300 pages of nothing happening, I would have loved it. But stretched out to 425 pages, it got so tedious. Our main character goes here. She sees this thing. This other thing. More things. This person. This other person. She thinks about the boy she likes. She sees a thing. She eats some food. She sees another thing. She goes to another place. She eats some food...  I just didn't have the stamina for it.

It's clear why people love this. It has nuggets of truth and is super well written, with Batuman's trademark erudition and insight into culture and language. So I feel like a bit of a failure for having found it boring. But Pie Not Included is a place for brutal honesty and thus, here it is: reader, I was bored af.

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Class Mom (by Laurie Gelman)

A fun and slightly Semple-ish satire of a year in the life of a kindergarten class mom.  I was slogging my way through The Idiot (see next post) and a took a break to read some of this, and accidentally finished it in a day.

Books that are explicitly trying to be funny are always tricky -- they're never quite as funny as they are trying to be, and it can get annoying. But I found this more successful than most -- probably because my husband is the room parent coordinator for our kid's school, and it is all extremely relatable.

A fun, breezy read, recommended for my fellow parents.

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