I was able to put a dent in my bedside book pile this summer. Here are a few rambling thoughts on some recent reads:
- The Hunger Games trilogy: I almost never read Young-Adult novels but guiltily watch most of the movies to keep up-to-date on my pop culture (just watch, I’m going to nail that Trivial Pursuit card one day!). I kept hearing about these, saw good reviews on a few respected blogs, and my Reader pals gave the thumbs up… figured they were worth the time. They so were! I tore through these in a few days and was bummed out when I finished. Almost everyone criticized the last book and I agree it wasn’t as great as the other two. It ends abruptly but tidily… I guess befitting to the intended audience? I still think these were really entertaining summer reads and can’t wait for the movies! I sincerely hope they do a good job on them. A great opportunity for Hollywood to carry a franchise with a strong female lead (good article in New York magazine about the TV aftermath following the success of Bridesmaids. Awesome… but it’s 2011, right?)
- The Bone People: Winner of the Booker Prize in 1984. I highly recommend this book. I tend to be a fast reader but this book gave me no other option than slowing down and reading it at its intended pace. I almost put the book back on the shelf after the first few pages, but trust me, it is worth sticking it out and you slowly become accustomed to the odd writing style over time. The book is set in New Zealand and Maori language is woven throughout. There is a glossary in the back but after a while I found myself not referencing it as much and letting the context aid my interpretation (I don’t think it distracted from the story). The plot is complex and emotional and I really wish I had read this along with someone or as part of a book club. I’d be curious to hear other people’s reactions to the extremely flawed characters and their sometimes brutal actions but first-person narration that somehow makes you sympathize (not always). To me, the mythology at the end was a bit heavy-handed but still fascinating. If anyone reads it let me know your thoughts!
- Room: Room is narrated from the perspective of a 5 yr-old. A 5 yr-old that is the product of rape and has lived his entire life in a 11 x 11 room with his captive mother. I was intrigued by this book the same way I’m intrigued by Law & Order SVU. I’m riveted by the psychology of the events but put up a wall that allows me to ignore the reality of the occurrences. Many people criticized this book because of inconsistencies in the narration but 1) I applaud Donoghue for even attempting to create such a unique perspective 2) how can we even begin to understand the development of a child under these circumstances 3) the premise of the book carried me through, regardless. It was especially creepy in light of the Jaycee Dugard case (Room was drafted before this came to horrifying light).
- A Visit from the Goon Squad: I’m having trouble deciding how to summarize this book. Some have described it as a book of short stories, rather than a novel, but many of the characters are connected. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character – but also from a different time period (ranging from the ’70s to the future, and not chronologically). After a few chapters I started paying attention anytime a new person was introduced (and flagging the page) wondering if they’d get a character study in an upcoming chapter. I think this is a really creative book and I’m impressed with Egan’s imagination and ability with structure.
- Bossypants: As is almost every other female on this planet, I’m in love with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. There are a lot of other female actresses I respect but usually that just means they’re normal and/or smart enough to have a good PR firm so their personalities seem a bit contrived, a little too glossy-magazine. Fey and Poehler* are unique in that they have a comedic background and our expectations of them are shifted by this fact (not that this is a fair standard for non-comedic women). Their wit and writing-chops take well-deserved center stage. I love how intelligent, vulgar, and REAL they come off in interviews. They’re for sure invited to my imaginary dinner party. But, like anything that receives so much hype, I found myself disappointed at the beginning of this book. It was funny and charming, but lackluster. Thankfully, I ended up loving it more near the end! The parts about SNL and 30 Rock were just far more interesting to me and I love the part when she writes fake responses to snarky online criticism. You know it’s what every celebrity actually wants to say! BS they don’t read any of it…
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Another story narrated by a child, but this time a quirky 9 yr-old in New York City, post-911. Probably why I should write my “reviews” (I hope no one is taking these that seriously) immediately after reading, but I can’t remember my exact thoughts on this book. I know I enjoyed it but don’t remember many specifics except the engaging precocious nature of Oskar, the child-narrator, and the interesting relationship of his grandparents. I’d read more by the author.
- Just Kids: I actually read this in spring, but I couldn’t resist including it. I loved this book, two artists faking-it-until-they-make-it in such a weird/awesome time and place in recent history. Here is the review I put on GoodReads*:
GREAT book! Fascinating look into 1960s/70s New York for 2 young struggling artists fully committed to each other and validating their art. The chapters about the Chelsea Hotel, with its revolving door of musicians and artists, were especially engrossing. “The Chelsea was like a doll’s house in the Twilight Zone, with a hundred rooms, each a small universe.”
I heard they are making a movie. Ugh, again, here’s hoping they don’t mess it up. And please, let’s not put the movie poster on the cover of the next book reprint. It’s so frickin’ annoying, really one of my biggest pet peeves.
That’s it. Currently I’m “reading” (mostly taking up space on my nightstand…) Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl, Cat Power: A Good Woman, and Age of Innocence. But in reality, the non-fiction factoids and old-world flowery English has been no match for my mood, blogroll, and magazine stash lately. Maybe fall will get me back on track…
*Kristin Wiig is entering the Fey/Poehler realm. Since I really don’t enjoy her characters on SNL, I was surprised how much I took a liking to her since her short but brilliant scene in Knocked Up. And did you know she co-wrote Bridesmaids? I couldn’t believe I didn’t know this until just recently. I’m hoping her post-SNL career is as promising as her predecessors.
** I love GoodReads. It’s the first site I’ve committed to long-term for cataloging books. I only wish more friends would join and actually use it so I could get more recommendations (always need more recommendations)! It’s a great tool for keeping your “to-read” books organized and I like reading the reviews (much preferred over some of the crazies on Amazon).