Book I’ve Read This Year, Part II

We just got back from a twelve day vacation, and I’m having conflicting emotions about it: “Yay! So happy to be home!” and “Boo hoo hoo our vacation is over and I MISSSSSSSS it.” And both set of feelings are completely legit as we WERE ready to be home… but now we’re not on vacation anymore! LIFE IS HARD. I HAVE ALL THE FEELINGS. (Be a doll and pass those Oreos, will you?)

Let’s talk about something safe, shall we? How about books?

Wild by Cheryl Strayed– I loved this book so much, as does pretty much everyone that reads it, and for good reason. It’s just so well done, so honest and raw and just awesome. It’s about so much more that her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. Also, I wish she was my friend.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver– Barbie might be one of my favorite authors, ever, but I tried and FAILED to read La Lacuna, so I was skeered that I would also not enjoy this one. (I so rarely start a book and then not finish it. Perhaps I should give Lacuna another shot?). Anyway. I really liked this one a lot. As with many of her stories, I really liked the characters, really wanted to visit their homes and babysit their kids and, in this case, see their butterflies. As with many of her books, there’s a not-so-subtle political message, but it’s a view in line with my own, so I loved it.

The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie by Ayana Mathis– This is, unbeknownst to be when I started reading it, an Oprah book club selection (I didn’t know she was still doing that?), and I KNOW Oprah has a bad rap for picking “depressing” books… but honestly, back in her book club’s hay day when I was in college and working at a bookstore, it was a GAME when her latest selection came out to see if we’d already read it. And often times (at least half the time), I HAD already read and enjoyed her selection. ANYWAY, I would not say this is THE MOST UPBEAT BOOK EVAR, but I liked it. Each chapter has a different narrator (each of Hattie’s children tell their story), which can be very disjointed, but I think she handled it well. There was one chapter in particular where I wanted to dash into the bedroom next door and lift a sleeping Olive into my arms, just to feel her close to me. The decisions others have had to make…. oooph.

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple– I loved this. LOVED. It’s light and funny and has the kind of humor that creeps up on  you with its subtly. Also, so much smart wit and humor. I laughed a ton.  Man, this was a fantastic book. After reading some heavy things, and having some super sad things happen to friends, this book was a breath of fresh air; the perfect palette cleanser and a great escape from reality.

Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman– My word, this was a hard book to read. I just couldn’t decide which side to be on, despite the fact that ethically, the “right” thing to do was pretty obvious. This book broke my heart, but I still loved it. Also, I feel like I’ve lived on a light house island now.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell- I loved this book so much. It reminded me of exactly what it was like to be a teenager falling in love, with all the wonder and complexities involved. There were some haunting aspects that I still think about, like I’m worrying about dear friends. Sigh. ALL THE THUMBS UP.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed– Ok, a collection of advice columns originally published on a blog? Yeah, I’ve read that type of book before. I kept hearing how great this one was, but I was expecting more of the same blog-goes-book type book. BUT I WAS WRONG. Listen, this lady can write. And she can give some damn good advice too. And I sort of hate her now (while also loving her, of course) because HOW? HOW DOES SHE SEEM TO WRITE SO EFFERTLESSLY??

Seriously. How?

Highly recommend this one. There’s something here for everyone.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan– I like this book ok, but I was not as enchanted with it as others have been. I mean, I kept reading without a problem; I didn’t get bored… just didn’t LURVE it like others did. It DID make me wonder if Google really was that wonderful of an employer. Hmmmm. Too lazy to google it to find out. (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?)

[Title/author redacted]*- This is a book by a local author that we chose for book club because of her local-ness. It was… not the best. I even knew a few of the people she wrote about, which could have made it mildly more interesting, but… it really didn’t.

*I got worried this local person would google herself and have hurt feelings. It’s a small town. She went to high school with my husband. ETC ETC. If you’re dying to know the title of this totally mediocre awful book, I’d be happy to email you.

Prospect Park West by Amy Sohn– A friend told me to read this, and  it was unlike most things I read. Sex, drugs, and (fake) celebreties- WAHOOO. I loved the irreverant way the author discussed these normally taboo topics, and overall, I was sufficiently entertained by this book. (Spoiler alert: they all cheat on each other. All of them.)

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes– Like a good girl, I read everything Twitter tells me to read, and this was one of Twitter’s recommendations. I honestly cannot remember who originally sang it’s praises (probably Elizabeth, as she’s basically the unofficial leader of the Twitter book club), but holy cats was this a wonderful book. I can’t remember the last time I cried at a movie or book (or cried in general, really… I’m not a cry-er), but this book destroyed me. I had to take a bathroom break about two chapters from the end, just to calm myself down enough to finish reading it. Even so, it was a really great story, and a good cry.

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore– Another Twitter recommendation, and I liked it. At first, I thought I’d love it, then I thought “….MEH…” but kept reading, and then I liked it a lot again. I really, really like the idea of getting together with my current friends when we are elderly, having coffee and traditions that have stretched with us through the years. Yes, please, I’ll take that.

The Attachments by Rainbow Rowell– I loved Eleanor and Park, so naturally I wanted to read more of this author. This book did not disappoint. I liked the pace of the love story, and I loved the main characters, and I loved the manner in which the story was told, which was unique but not twee. Miss Rainbow gets another 10 out of 10 stars from me!

An American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld- Can you believe I had not read anything by this author? Me either! Which is why I read three books of hers (yes, Curtis is female) nearly in a row. I really liked this one, except at the very end when I wasn’t sure if she was trying to directly compare her characters to a real president/president’s wife. A short google search would surely answer this question, but I haven’t looked into it yet. If she was, than I’m sort of… well, pissed? I’m not even sure why. Otherwise, great characters and storytelling. (I liked it enough to go on to read two more of her books, so I’d say I recommend it.)

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen– It wasn’t that long ago (a month maybe?) that I read this, and yet it took me awhile to even remember what it was about. Oh, yes, a teen love story. It was pretty good, as far as teen love stories go and had realistic, well-written dialogue. If I had read this as an actual teenager, I probably would have gone on to read many more of this author’s books (and I still might when I need a light read).

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld- I really loved this book. This author writes pretty much exactly the kind of book I like to get lost in: characters that are flawed but ultimately likeable, realistic situations, and very honest thought processes and insights expressed by the main character. I just… like her style. A great deal. Also, have you wondered what a ritzy private boarding school is like? Read this and you’ll feel like you know.

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld– Yes, see, I told you I read three of hers in a short time. This one was my favorite, probably because I happen to have my very own twins, and this book is about (adult) identical twin sisters. But even not having that in common, I’m pretty sure I would have loved this story. I liked how she dealt with the ESP as both believable without trying to convince anyone. I liked the characters as people, people who I’d want to be friends with. Two thumbs up.

Wow. The past few months, I’ve had a really good streak of great books (thanks, Twitter!). Currently I’m reading Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett (she’s one of my favorite authors) and have Let’s Pretend This Never Happened waiting on deck, for some comic relief. Anything else I need to read this summer? I haven’t read many memoirs/non-fiction, so I’d love recommendations for that genre (or anything you’ve loved lately).