Sunday, May 31, 2020
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth - how is it that I have never read this one before? Perhaps I'm not the biggest Philip Roth fan. But anyway. I read this one while watching the HBO miniseries, and they really did a nice job of complementing each other. I'm not sure I would have fully understood all the nuances of the TV show without the book, and I enjoyed having the visuals to go along with it as I read. I think the book did a better job of tying up the ending (maybe a little too neatly) but the TV show updated the message a little - reminding us that democracy is messy and unpredictable. Definitely worth the read!
Saving Sophie by Ron Balson - the second book in the Liam-and-Catherine series, and I liked it a lot. Perhaps things got a little too easily sewn up but it was still a great read, and I enjoy the characters and the writing. (Looking forward to reading the next one. I do like a series that already has a bunch of books waiting for me!)
The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson - this book reminded me a little of the Immortalists in the family dynamic sense of it, with a twist of historical mystery thrown in. Very readable and enjoyable. I found myself drawn to the historical mystery a little more than the family drama, but I liked both storylines and it kept my attention for the whole read! (Plus, I liked the ending.)
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo - I can't believe I've never read this before. Our school's whole third grade is reading it and Solly has declared it his "favorite book EVER that isn't Harry Potter" so I knew I had to read it. Delightful, of course, and thankfully, I can now discuss it in VERY detailed detail with him. Whew. (P.S. The movie is available on Disney+ right now and it's also good. And if you'd like Solly to give you a blow-by-blow account of the ways that the book differs from the movie, feel free to give him a call.)
Karolina's Twins by Ron Balson - okay, so remember how I said I like a series that has a bunch of books waiting for me? Still true. Also true: I am a sucker for a good procedural, and these are just non-formulaic enough to keep me reading and guessing. The third book in the Liam-and-Catherine show did not disappoint, and in fact, kept me up very late one night to find out what happened at the end!
How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones - what an incredible memoir. The writing was superb and the personal story was painful to read but also beautiful to know that the writer got to this point, to crafting this work. It is his personal story of growing up in Texas while gay and black. A double whammy, as he makes clear through his telling. This one feels like a gift to the world. (But it is not G or even PG-rated....)
Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner - a fun read that didn't really have a lot of depth to it. Sometimes that is soooo good. I liked the social media aspect and the body-consciousness that came with it.
Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins - this is a pre-quel to the Hunger Games series, and I liked the way that it laid out how the Hunger Games as we know them came to be...It suffered, as prequels do, from any real uncertainty about the future of our main character, since we know who they turn out to be. But still, I liked returning to Panem (even though I hate Panem) and it was definitely a fun read!
Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein - I received a review copy of this one and I really enjoyed reading it. The main character is a 7th grader who lives in Wisconsin. The story was sweet and touching, with a lot of self-awareness about how we find compassion for our friends, for others, and for ourselves. As a Wisconsin Jew myself, I was a tiny bit surprised by how many Jews lived in this small town, but I can suspend my disbelief for that! Overall a good read - I'm looking forward to convincing Yael to read it so I can hear the opinion of a 7th grader!
All Adults Here by Emma Straub - this was another slightly-dysfunctional-family-story but an engaging one. Much of this story was about the difference between privacy and secrecy - the author even spells that lesson out at one point - and I thought that was meaningful and powerful. It's a huge and important distinction that is hard to learn. This was a good one to add to your summer reading lists.
An Unorthodox Match by Naomi Ragen - I used to love her books and then I got turned off by her politics and some of her stridency. This one felt a little preachy but pretty compelling, even though you pretty much knew how it was going to end. I appreciated the "lifting of the veil" on mental illness in the Jewish community, since that is a fairly important issue. Very readable, even if the characters felt a little bit caricatured (especially the mom).
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley - jumping on the bandwagon of books-about-bookshops and teen-romances-in-anonymous-letters, this one was a sweet and sad love story. I enjoyed it as an easy summer hammock read...
Friday, May 1, 2020
(I can't decide if these lists should be in order or in reverse order...and does it matter? Sometimes I find myself in an interesting sequence of books...so sometimes sequence matters. Usually it's irrelevant, though, so I'm just writing this header to make a note of it!)
The Opposite of Love - this was not my favorite of this author's works. I have found her writing about teens and grief and love to be really moving and lovely. This one was a little disappointing, although I wanted to know what would happen. I'm pretty sure this was her first book, and it took her a little bit to find her voice in her later books!
An Everlasting Meal - I wish I could remember who recommended this (was it you?) but this was delightful. Especially in a time when I'm constantly thinking about what to cook my family for dinner and how to make something from what is in my pantry...but even in a time of plenty. I enjoyed her style and her approach to food and cooking. I am definitely sharing this one with David, who will be heading out into his own kitchen someday soon....
Untamed - Writer Glennon Doyle has made quite a shift since her first book (which I read too). In her first book, she felt real but there was something that rubbed me a little wrong...and it seems as though it may have bothered her a little bit too (ha, that's meant to be an understatement). I liked the slightly disjointed style, as though I were just having a conversation with her, and I liked seeing how she pieced the elements of her story together. "We can do hard things" is not an original idea to her but it certainly found its mark with me as I read it during this time of worldwide trauma. Highly recommend this one!
4-3-2-1 - let me start by saying that this book is loooong. By long, I mean that my kindle told me it would take me over 12 hours to read and it is over 800 pages. It was totally worth it. But wow. It's such an interesting premise - one character followed through four different life-paths. A little like the movie Sliding Doors. I had a little bit of a hard time following each of the paths fully, since they were broken up (chapter 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, and then 2.1, 2.2...etc, so it wasn't four separate novelas but instead each life path carried on and then you went back to the next one). The chapters were long, too, so I didn't always remember which life-path I was reading, but I just kept going with the flow, and I didn't care too much which storyline I was reading! To be honest, I think it was a little too heavy on the history, name-dropping, book-list/movie-list-making, etc - and could have been pared down a little to tell the story. But....all that, it was a great read.
Chosen Ones - new book from the author of Divergent, and it was a nice break to read something a little flighty and escapist. Magic, bad guys, good guys-who-might-be-bad, all of that. A reluctant heroine....overall, I enjoyed this quick read!
P.S. This seems like such a short list! Hopefully I will read more books in May....