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String of A+ Novels

23 Apr

April was a great reading month for me! I read SUCH good things. Body Lies and Queenie were not my faves – they were fine/good/okyeah. Since the other four were great I’ll just pass over those two.

Other Americans reminded me a little of Crash and We Are Called to Rise in terms of its structure. So many alternating narrators that come together in a great way at the end. It’s the story of a man killed in a hit and run, his daughter who comes home to sort out the details of his death, the officers involved with the investigation and the neighbors of the dead man’s diner. Compelling, fast – might be confusing if you don’t give it a big chunk of time to start because of all the voices but overall so good. 4 stars

Call Your Daughter Home I loved – I almost put it down at the hint of child abuse but I’m so glad I didn’t. Set in the years before the Great Depression but after the Boll Weevil infestation in the South, this is the story of three women who are struggling with their situations. One is the elderly wife of previously very successful cotton baron, one is the African-American woman who runs her household and the third is a poor white woman who has just escaped an abusive marriage. The three stories meet when the third woman is hired to work at the big house. 4.5 stars

I usually like novels that play around with structure and form and find different ways to tell a story. Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg does just that. Told through the catalogue notes from a photography retrospective, we get the story of Lillian – a photographer made famous (or infamous, rather) when she displayed photos of her young daughter, naked. The catalogue notes are written by her daughter, Samantha, and supplemented with journal entries from Lillian’s diaries and interviews with her friends. So good. 4.5 stars

This last one I finished just yesterday so it is freshest in my mind. If you haven’t read Jill Ciment before, you really should. Start with The Body in Question or any of her many others. She is so smart and such a beautiful writer and I find myself thinking about connections and links that I missed during my reading. DON’T READ THE PUBLISHER’S SYNOPSIS of this one, it gives away the entire plot and I think you’d be better off surprised. It’s the story of a woman who gets called for jury duty and chosen for a murder trial. The victim is a young boy and the accused is his older sister Anca.  As the defense tries to imply that Anca’s twin sister might be the mastermind behind this heinous crime, our juror C-2 finds herself distracted by a romance with another juror, F-17. So many complications because C-2 is married, the flirtation gets carried away and maybe justice doesn’t get served the way it should. 4.5 stars!

Hello, March!

1 Mar

Goodbye, snow-day-filled-February! Gosh this was a fast month and I definitely felt like I didn’t get a lot of reading in, but look! Six books. Three were on my TBR post from a while back, two were great, one was probably great but just not for me and the other three were fine.

Peter Heller – I sometimes jokingly refer to him as my boyfriend. He is so amazing. AND he’s coming to the Lawrence library on his book tour in early March, I’ll be there for sure. His new one, The River, was amazing. These two college friends fly into some remote (I don’t know the word) system of streams and lakes that’s totally isolated and set out on a month-long journey to paddle down it. The river is dangerous, they run in to some sketchy people, there is a forest fire on the periphery. If you like him, if you like rivers or novels that make your palms sweat and give you anxiety – this is your book. 4.5 stars!

The Night Tiger has been getting hype everywhere so as always I was a little skeptical. BUT, of course, I found myself totally swept up and really enjoying it. The premise will make you wonder if it’s for you, but I promise it’s not as weird as it sounds. Ren, a young orphan, is asked by his dying doctor boss/father figure to retrieve his amputated finger and bury it with his body. There are a lot of Malaysian myths/folklore/magic undertones but the story itself is very real. Chapters alternate between Ren and a young woman named Ji Lin who happens to have recently come into possession of the finger. Promise it’s not as weird as it sounds, 4.5 stars!

The writing in Rutting Season is so good and readable but every single story felt dark and sad and just really a downer. Good but unsettling (and not in a good way, as unsettling can sometimes be in stories). 3 stars

The other three were all good. Not great, just good. Last Romantics, the story of a now famous poet reflecting on her childhood and the family drama therein. The Lightkeeper’s Daughter, a blind old woman (the lightkeeper’s daughter) finds her father’s old journals and asks a troubled youth/girl to read them to her. Turns out (aha!) the old woman and the teen are connected. The Orphan of Salt Winds is also the story of an old woman and a troubled teenage girl with connected pasts, except this one is set on the moors/marshes and has an eerie feel to it. They were all good, solid reads. 3.5 stars for all!


As a final note – I’m a third of the way through this collection of short stories about Latinas in the Denver/Colorado area. I started it because the cover is so perfect and I have to say, I’m loving the stories. So good. It’s out April 2nd.