Apparently, this year that I made no resolutions (including no such resolve to cut down on coffee!), I also resolved to only blog in my head. Yes, I have written some scintillating posts, but they have not made it to my own version of the silver screen (in my case the finger-smudged screen–I share my computer with my children). Can’t believe I haven’t written all month.
I’ll try not to ramble too much now and will update the old blog soon, possibly even this week. (You never know. I might.) In the meantime, I read some amazing books this month.
WHAT I READ:
The Starlite Drive-In was awesome. I meant to give it 5 stars over at 5 minutes for books, and I forgot cuz I’m on top of things like that. Go read my review and enter to win a copy. It was excellent, detail-drenched and the kind of book where you feel you’ve actually visited the place and know the people. I can still see the characters in my head.
The Street Sweeper was unlike anything else I’ve ever read, but it was excellent too. It was half novel, half history book, the sort of work where fictional and historical characters are seamlessly blended together, yet the reader has no trouble sorting them out. It sort of follows two main characters, but there are scads of minor but important characters too. The first is a black man recently released from jail after no one believed his innocence, who has managed to score a job in janitorial at the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center, where he strikes up an unlikely friendship with a Holocaust survivor who tells him his story. The second is a Jewish history teacher at Columbia, struggling with depression and a sense of failure, who stumbles across a trove of first-person interviews with Holocaust survivors conducted immediately after their release. The book deals with some of the worst parts of the first two-thirds of Western 20th-century history–the holocaust, civil rights struggles, race riots in Chicago. And yet, somehow, there is hope and redemption and connection there. In some ways, it’s not an easy book to read, but it is worth reading, and readable too.
Matched Young adult dystopian fiction. Need I say more? And why are the youth of today so very into dystopian romance? I wrote a blog post in my head about it. I’m not into scary futuristic dramas. I wasn’t when I was young either–I was scared of dystopian dreams. I think I am going to make Ilsa read 1984, which should disabuse her of this notion. Anyway, Matched was quite good and totally readable. I enjoyed it. Oh the plot? Cassia lives in a dreary futuristic time where The Society plans your life for you–who you’ll marry, when you’ll die, what you’ll wear and eat, where you’ll live, work, etc. She is “matched” to Xander, her best friend since childhood, but in a glitch of the system, also matched to Ky. In my favorite part, she finds a forbidden copy of Thomas’ poem Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night–forbidden because all but 100 “best” poems were destroyed by The Society–and it gives her courage to buck the system and figure out what she wants to do with her own life. I’m planning to read the sequel, which, given how low we are on the waiting list at the library, will probably be in some dreary futuristic time.
EDITED TO ADD: I forgot to mention how much The Society is like Camazotz, the evil scary place from A Wrinkle in Time. There are tons of similarities. This is a plus in my book–I love it when books call upon other books like that.
The Invisible Ones Also LOVED this one. It’s a really good mystery, but it’s also about class-ism in modern Great Britain and about the Romany and you will love the teenage narrator. Click the link to read my full review.
The Confession Another one I really enjoyed. Really, it’s been a great month for books. I’m hoping my trend continues. This was a very classic mystery, set in England in 1920, and dealing with a string of murders that seemed unconnected and were separated by years and miles. The author, Charles Todd, is a mother-son team, which I find totally intriguing and also a little strange. They’ve been quite prolific and I’m definitely planning to read more of their stuff!
Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal Really enjoyed this one too. Conor Grennan is planning a year-long trip around the world, and decides to start with a 3-month stint volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal, where’s there actually a civil war going on. He is overwhelmed when he enters the orphanage and 18 boys leap onto his back! But he gradually comes to really love them. So far so good–the experience of many volunteers. His life changes, however, when the mother of two of the “orphans” comes to visit them. He finds out that these boys, and 100s of other children, were trafficked. Their parents, living in poverty and fearing for their children’s futures in an area hard-hit by war, sold their meager farms to pay for their children to be taken to safety and given an education. Instead, they were dumped in the teeming streets of Kathmandu. Grennan vows to return them all to their families, and the story of how he achieves that is adventurous and inspirational. I don’t use this word lightly. I have lived overseas and have a decent idea of what this sort of thing looks like, and I’m all too aware of ways that stories can be spun to make realities sound better than they are. Grennan is an everyday guy who responds to a need before him, and his book has nothing of the hagiographical feeling of, well to name names, Three Cups of Tea. Little Princes is a great story, and the proceeds go to Grennan’s NGO, Next Generation Nepal. He achieved his initial goal of saving the children of his orphanage, but there are still more kids out there who deserve to grow up with their own families.
The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous & Obscure. This is a collection of short essays describing defining moments in the authors’ lives. Fascinating and honest. The moments range from heart-warming–births, first kisses–to heart-breaking–realization of racism towards oneself, the war reporter who struggles with the fact that he let an innocent person die rather than lose the story. It makes for great reading and is also the sort of book that would make a good present for someone else.
READING RIGHT NOW! AS YOU READ THIS! (not really. I’m probably out and about doing something):
Hope: A Tragedy This book is really really strange. In some ways, it’s a comedy about the holocaust, but don’t be offended because it doesn’t exactly make fun of it, more of the ways some people have reacted. Also it’s a very dark comedy. The writing style reminds me a lot of Woody Allen. Kugel and his family move to Stockton, New York, where nothing ever happens, and he finds Anne Frank living in his attic, working on her novel. She’s had to hide because after her diary sold so many copies, the publisher wasn’t thrilled to find out she’d survived, but she doesn’t want to be known as a one-hit wonder. He has to hide Anne from his mother, who feels she is a holocaust survivor even though she was born in New York several years after it happened. Still, every time she reads of a survivor’s habit, she adopts it–i.e. hiding bread in the couch cushions. It’s funny and stark and unlike anything else. I sort of like it but I’m also able to set it down for long stretches of time.
Restoring Harmony Part of the YA dystopian romance pack. It’s okay so far; I’ve just started it. I love that it’s set in the NW. She just took the MAX train from downtown Portland to Gresham. I love reading books set in my city.
The Old Romantic Also just started, but it’s funny. I’ll give you a quote from the back: “It’s been decades since Nick cast off his impossible, contentious, embarassingly working-class parents…after a divorce that both of them managed to blame on Nick.” Nick is driving to see them in the first chapter or so, which is as far as I’ve gotten.
Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast Ilsa got this one from the library and I’m reading and enjoying it. I love a good retelling of a fairy tale, and I love McKinley’s work in general, so it’s no surprise.
A Good American A coming-to-America story.
The Demi-Monde: Winter(The Demi-Monde Saga) A blend of steampunk and sci-fi and alternative reality that reviewers say is also a fun, fast-paced read.
What a terribly long post this was! Took me ages too–good thing I’m stuck home this morning waiting for the internet people to come by and do…something? Our yard has been taken over by painted lines and little flags lately, and apparently it’s them, not the squirrels out doing some colonizing with a cunning use of flags, as I first suspected. So, assuming you’ve made it this far (and congrats to you if you have!), what have you been reading? Anything good? My list for next month looks short at this point. Let me know!