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: , , ,