Book Report - part two

Oh, man.

Do I still have a blog? Does blogger ever just revoke your entire blog due to inactivity?

I've been overwhelmed with parenting lately, my friends. Like, I-think-I-need-to-go-back-to-therapy- overwhelmed. And the older my kids get, the less I feel I can blog about it. It's true what they say about little kids, little problems, big kids, BIG PROBLEMS. So.


On to happier things! LIKE BOOOOOKKKS.

What have you read lately and loved? What book would you give to your best friend, assuming your best friend likes to read what you like to read because what else would you look for in a best friend?

SPILL IT, dear readers. I need some good new books (and tips on what to avoid).


I'm finally going to steal the format of Ms. Hillary over at Not Raising Brats. Instead of listing books chronologically based on when I read them, I'm listing them based on my recommendation level. I'm too late to recommend books you should request from Santa but maybe the big guy gave you a bookstore gift card?

Beg, borrow, or buy (Don't steal. Stealing's bad.)

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

One of my only non-fiction reads of the year, this rumination on parent/child difference riveted me. In each chapter, Solomon tells us stories of exceptional children, from prodigies to schizophrenics, and how their parents learn to navigate the challenges and unexpected rewards of parenting someone very different from themselves. There are lessons here for all parents. For all humans. Read it.

American Wife: a novel by Curtis Sittenfeld

I'm going to be honest here: I really, REALLY disliked George Bush as a president. But I always found his wife to be inherently kind and quietly smart, which confused me - what did she see in him? So I was curious about this fictional take on her life and took Marie Green's recommendation of this book to heart. Many of the basic plot points are familiar - most famously, the jokey, overly confident husband who surprises everyone by becoming president! - but the details, the personalities, the complex emotions of each character were so well done. I felt like the marriage of George and Laura made sense all of a sudden. I even came to - almost - like George W.! Now THAT'S a writing accomplishment! An engrossing read, especially if you like romance or politics or both.

Heft by Liz Moore

Arthur Opp lives alone in his cluttered, dilapidated house of which he only sees the ground floor. You see, he's morbidly obese and hasn't left the house in years. He corresponds with a former student, manages to hire a housecleaner and hopes for his luck to magically change. Does it? Not a lot. But enough. This book about loneliness and sorrow and grief has a heart of hopeful gold.

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

I LOVED the narrator/heroine in this coming-of-age novel. A teenage girl arrives at a Southern boarding school expecting to leave behind a complex family history, but instead encounters new challenges from her classmates and teachers. An intelligent, sensual, envy-enducingly awesome first novel.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Perhaps nothing by Ms. Rowell will ever surpass the glory of Eleanor and Park but this was a great read in its own right. It's a love story for our age: a man in charge of reading his fellow co-workers' emails finds himself drawn to the exchanges of one female co-worker in particular. To fall in love over email is not so strange, but to fall in love over email the other person doesn't know you're reading? Well, that's new and strange and full of romantic comedy potential that Ms. Rowell exploits perfectly.  *insert heart symbol here*

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

I didn't love Ms. Morton's "Forgotten Garden." In fact, I believe I called it "forgettable."  But this novel, MAN, I loved this one. A young girl watches her gentle mother kill a mysterious stranger and many years later tries to unravel the mystery of who and why. We meet her mother as a young woman, a middle-aged mother, a dementia suffering grandmother. Sweeping, compelling, put-up-your-feet-and-turn-off-your-phone enjoyable.

Maybe, if they're cheap, your library list is short or the premise really floats your boat.

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

This YA novel follows an unnaturally empathic British teenager as she tries to unravel the mystery of her father's American friend who has gone missing. If you love YA mysteries, go for it.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarity
Almost 40 year old Alice slips and hits her head after a spin class and suddenly she's 29 again, still in love with her husband and awaiting the birth of her first child. Imagine her surprise when she discovers she has three kids, is about to be divorced, and has become a person she doesn't recognize. I loved the premise but the ending felt off.

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

A childless elementary school teacher longs to be a world famous artist and befriends a beguiling foreign family who seem to have grasped every brass ring she lacks. She falls in love with each of them in turn, which becomes her undoing. It's a dark novel and though I believed in every character and every twist the story took, I felt sorry for them and sad by the end. Read it if you really don't mind disagreeable main characters.

The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison

I borrowed this after hearing that Anne Lamott reportedly read it in one sitting. I didn't read it in one sitting but this tale of a marriage disintegrating into murder did keep my attention. My problem? I really couldn't stand either character and the writing sometimes stalled. If you loved "Gone Girl," you'll probably dig it.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Would you call this novel - about a time-traveling serial killer, his magically menacing house, and the girl he couldn't kill - science fiction, historical fiction, or horror? How about all three! I couldn't read this book at night before bed because I have the delicate psyche of a newborn Christmas elf. But if you love scary stuff, this was very well done.

Carry On Warrior by Glennon Melton

Quick, powerful, engaging. However, I did wonder just what she left out, glossed over or changed to suit her narrative. Go for it if you love her blog or really enjoy religious-y self-help.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

I loved "Eat, Pray, Love" and I'm not embarrassed to say it. So I was extra excited to read this more highly esteemed historical novel about a female botanist who winds her way to evolutionary theory at the same time as Darwin. What was not to love about this premise? Well, it was beautifully written but I found it slow, tedious, boring at times. I don't know. Maybe I was just grumpy and needed a nap.

I'd go with NO.

Grave Mercy/Insurgent/Allegiant

Hey, you might like these but apparently I'm just not into most Science Fiction-y things.


Laura Diniwilk said...

So, I'm skipping all things book related (I'll go back and read them, I swear) to say that if you want to have an email or g chat conversation about how parenting is harrrrrrd I'm here for ya. We are going through a rough stage and I feel like a crappy mom. Boo. Perhaps we can vent together and spare some therapy bucks?

idena said...

Last night I finished Stardust by Neil Gaiman and can't believe how much I loved it. I'm usually not a fantasy book lover, but man oh man, I want to read it again already.

And parenting... yes. So hard. And not that I have a crystal ball and can see into the future, but I do think it gets better. I think this stage -- this age -- is just very, very hard.

Hillary said...

I second idena's recommendation for Stardust. I really loved that one.

I'm going to check out Heft on your recommendation. I had seen it and was skeptical, but I trust your judgment.

As for parenting, yes. I feel like as the boys get bigger and head to school their stories aren't really mine to tell any longer. The truth is, as they get bigger, I don't even have all the details any more. I don't know what's going through their heads. It's a tough job, parenting.

Stephanie said...

I'm with you - I haven't blogged since August or September! I may blurb it into a book and delete it soon, but I do miss writing for its own sake. And I can say, after a bit of my own therapy this last year, that my 9-year-old is finally turning a corner (for pretty much the first time since . . . ever). I'm not sure if it's her age/maturity or due to some of the techniques the therapist taught us, but I guess I just want to tell you to hang in there. Small (but meaningful) change is possible!

Anyway: books! I agree with your reviews of Far From the Tree and American Wife. I'd have to peek at my Goodreads account, but a couple that I know I rated 5 stars this year are TransAtlantic by Colum McCann and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (non-fiction), and anything by Kent Haruf. I also re-read John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany and remembered why I loved it so when I first read it 15 years ago.

Happy New Year! I wish we could meet up someplace sunny (ahem, Jamaica) . . .

Marie Green said...

I'm glad you like American President! I didn't know when I read it if it was for sure modeled after GeeDubs but I loved it so! I'm reading The Secret Keeper right now, after reading your review.

Blog Designed by: NW Designs