Thursday, November 7, 2013

What I can remember from the past year of reading in no particular order

The Great:
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand  by Helen Simonson - I just put this one down. Awesome. On par with A Passage to India by E.M. Forster. I don't want to tell you anything about it except that you should read it immediately. Like right now.

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler - I reread this book every couple years. It's about a widow with a big bustling complicated family who begins to suspect she made the wrong choice in life. So she looks up her high school sweetheart, and moderately wacky hijinks ensue.

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty - This story really stayed with me, probably because I read it as a 35 year old, and a message that keeps popping up in the story is that at 35 one still has one's whole life ahead. There's also a nice historical fiction aspect as Ms. Moriarty borrows bits from the life of silent film star Louise Brooks.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer - The story takes place in the aftermath of the German occupation of the Channel Islands. Once you get used to the fact that it's written as letters--just pretend they are your Facebook friends--this novel flies along. It's laugh out loud delightful.

The Good:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Bear in mind that this is young adult fiction rather than capital F fiction. It's more nuanced than the movie version and worth the read. And I'm wanting to read the second book Catching Fire before I see that movie later this month. Lots of good stuff here about starvation, poverty, reality tv, fascism, genetic engineering, and bread and circuses. And a proactive powerful female main character is so much more enjoyable to read about than Twilight-damsel-in-distress-waif-crap.

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin - This family accidentally loses the mom at a subway station. For reals. And each family member's reaction to this event will really make you think about your own relationships with your spouse, your children, and especially your parents. How shocking it is to realize that your parents are actual people, that they existed before you and continue to have lives even after you are born. 

A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano - This is a bit of historical fiction about Southern author Flannery O'Connor. I liked the Flannery character the best, but many of the primary characters need a serious boot to the head. Also learned some interesting trivia about peacocks.

Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka - This is a very stylized account of Japanese interment. Events and experiences range from mundane to shocking. Don't expect traditional storytelling--it's more of a collage. I enjoyed this book as much as one can revel in tragedy.

The Bad:
A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash - So there's a mute little boy who gets smothered to death in the midst of an attempted faith healing, and then all hell breaks loose. I didn't care enough about the characters to be crushed by the (SPOILER ALERT) bloodbath at the end. Sort of reminded me of Faulkner but without the intensity and humor.

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova - A tale of two ladies: one lost her autistic son and the other has a cheating husband. It goes along nicely until Ms. Genova (SPOILER ALERT) fudged the ending with some supernatural bs. Seriously, you owe your readers better.

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan - When my book club picked a novel about a spy I expected something of a thriller. That's not what this is. The British Cold War political minutia is endless. Yeah, I figured that working at MI5 is mostly paperwork in a cube-farm, not glamorous, but I didn't need Mr. McEwan to count every paperclip in order to demonstrate the fact. By the time it ended I couldn't care less what happened as long as something, anything happened. So disappointing after Atonement.

There was another dud I read but can't recall the title or author. It was about a small town and "bad blood" and ranchers and murder and a necklace and a lot of backpacks. Evidently very memorable...

The Ugly:
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway -Want to know what daily life is like in a warzone? Here, read this! It's not pretty, but it's very moving.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh - This reminded me a little of Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone. Except with a young woman fresh out of the foster care system and a whole lot of child endangerment. She just keeps falling through the cracks of life over and over. Parts of this novel really disturbed me.

The Dinner by Herman Koch - There are enough horrors on the nightly news that you don't need to waste time reading this novel. The moral of the story is (SPOILER ALERT): the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Except double yuck. No, thank you, Mr. Koch.


bbmowery said...

I just finished the second Hunger Games book Catching Fire, and it's better than the first book. I have high hopes for Mockingjay which I will pick up at the library this week and read in one big gulp like the others.

bbmowery said...

Just remembered another bad one: The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman. None of the characters were engaging. The title was misleading because it echoes The Most Dangerous Game, but the two works are dissimilar. That's a sad oversight.