Summer Reading, Part 1

I have not taken the time to blog or even briefly review any of the books I have read this summer. Folks have been lucky if I have even mentioned, “hey, that’s a great book,” or “meh, don’t read it.” So, here goes, in one mass blog, for my reading thus far. I hope to get some more in before school starts in a few weeks, and will make it a point to come back and do a “part 2”. (Most of the books are hyperlinked to Amazon for a more detailed synopsis).

I started off the summer o’reading with some poetry – partially because it was on the Book Riot “Read Harder” challenge, and partially because it was by a German poet/doctor who was initially a Nazi and then changed his mind. Impromptus by Gottfriend Benn. It was not just poetry, there were some prose and essays included as well. I would like another volume of his work, predominantly from when he was writing about his experiences as a doctor; the few included in the volume above were dark.

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman was next. There’s just something about reading Gaiman that is soothing, not the least of which is I literally hear his voice in my head, since I’ve listened to him read so many of his own stories. Definitely a recommend for fans of his or Stephen King’s – I love how Gaiman twists the fairy tales.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich, National Book Award Winner 2012. I love her writing style and the story, about the year things went wonky for a teenaged boy living on a reservation, was superb. The ending, I did not predict.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Much like Gaiman, I adore everything Atwood writes. Luckily, I am new to the Atwood party, and still have many of her works ahead of me. I cannot wait to jump into the sequel of this one, but oddly, I have been waiting, but for what, I am not sure.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. I love The Wizard of Oz and I love re-tellings of the Wizard of Oz (as long as they are not live action, scary humans dressed as weird animals versions!) This one was good, it was not quite what I expected, but tornado? Check. Cute little pet? Check. Heroine who drops the F-bomb? Oh wait, but that’s a check.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight. This is the summer of the audiobook for me, thanks to Scribd. I loved this story about a teenage girl who dies from an apparent suicide, and her distraught, single mother who does not believe it. Told from alternating viewpoints of the mother, the daughter (while alive) and Facebook posts, this was intriguing from start to finish.

The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman. Lippman writes cozy mysteries, of which this is one. I do enjoy a good cozy mystery, but prefer mine to be British, along the lines of Agatha Raisin. Still, this was a good story, about a detective stuck on bed-rest a la Hitchcock, Rear Window. Good characters, this was a quick read.

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. You won’t like this narrator: she’s vapid, egotistical, and bitchy. She does have a few endearing moments, but not many; however, for all that, I did enjoy this book. Nora is a spinster teacher, who insinuates herself into the lives of one of the parents. Really good, a few times, I wanted to hit Nora for being shallow AND stupid, but that’s the sign of a good book for me.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It was extremely sad, but I did not find myself depressed after reading it. It was somewhat juvenile, not what I was expecting at all. I felt terribly sorry for Esther/Sylvia, and when she throws her clothes off the top of the highrise, I nearly lost it.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. It’s a work book, what can I say? Newly promoted, I felt I needed to brush up on my management skills. Very compelling read, I read it in a few short hours. Have I put it to use? No. Have I even retained it? Not really. But it looks good on my bookshelf at work.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer winner in 2011. (Yes, I am still on my neverending quest to read award winners). This was so different, and completely revolved around the world of music. Each chapter was told from someone else’s perspective, although most of the characters were intertwined somehow. There’s even a chapter done in PowerPoint (or some other presentation software). I started losing interest though, because having a different POV each chapter made it difficult to stay caught up.

As Simple as Snow by Gregory Galloway. I did not realize until I was about halfway through that this was a young adult book (the pain of reading from Scribd), but it was a good YA book. The book is told from an unnamed narrator’s point of view, and talks about his relationship with Anna, who blew into his life and swept him away (pardon for the awful cliche). Anna goes missing one night, leaving behind only a dress on the ice. I was sad to see this one end.

We Are on Our Own by Miriam Katin. Graphic memoir, tells the story of Miriam and her mother as they escape the Nazis. It is heartbreaking.

The Circle by Dave Eggers. This one was frightening, not in an Amityville Horror way, but in a “this could totally happen, and might soon” type of way. The Circle is a company that sounds remarkably like Google. Scary what our new electronic lives can lead to.

This is the Water by Yannick Murphy. This was a very haunting story, but told from a very odd perspective, 2nd person. It was disconcerting, to say the least. There were also many characters, so it almost made it hard to keep up.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. This was so freaking hilarious! Complete with somewhat juvenile drawings, I laughed through much of the book, but there were also some serious chapters on depression.

Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik. Okay, I have to confess, since reading The Girl on the Train earlier this year, I have really jonesed for more multi-POV, unreliable narrators, with a plot that is so twisty, it’s like driving up a switchback in Colorado. This one did not really fit the bill, but it was twisty, and there were some characters that you just loved to hate in the book.

The Hidden Girl by Louise Millar. This was a gem I found on Scribd; British mystery, fast-paced, edge of your seat, “WTH?” type plot! I have some more of hers loaded up on my e-reader now, but…I am trying to be good and read mostly thesis works.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner. I love Diaz’s voice. I didn’t enjoy this as much as his most recent collection of short stories, This is How You Lose Her, but this was interesting, historical, and gutwrenching.

Hitler’s Last Days by Bill O’Reilly. This was a typical O’Reilly book, very interesting, not a whole lot of new information, but told quickly and concisely. The sense I got about this book was that it was “leftover” material from his Killing Patton book (which I have not read yet).

None of Us Will Return by Charlotte Delbo. Delbo was a French résistante who was arrested by the Gestapo, and, along with 229 other women, transported to Auschwitz. Delbo reveals briefly and artistically the horrors of the death camp – her prose is superb, writing in a what seems to be disbelief. She also includes some poems. (Three books down for my thesis!) For additional reading on women of the French Resistance, check out this article.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I’ve been seeing this and seeing this, it has popped up in all my “you might like” lists across the internet. I’d been wanting to read it, but finally downloaded the audio and listened to it. I was loving the Australian narrator, and it made me really want to read some more works by Nevil Shute (On the Beach). Moriarty is an excellent writer herself, though. I really saw some of the actions, but even feeling like I “knew” what was going to happen, I still stared in disbelief as the events actually unfolded. This is also a multi-character story arc, and I love those.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. I couldn’t help myself, plus the narrator was the same as the last one I listened to! Again, Moriarty just has a superb talent for nuance, and I completely saw the “twist,” but even as I did, my mouth fell open and I was shocked and saddened. Such a great author.

Get Even by Gretchen McNeil. Okay, YA guilty pleasure, something of a cross between Pretty Little Liars (TV) and the new series, Scream, on MTV. I enjoyed it and have blown through it in the last few days. I was not aware it was the first in a duo of books, so was pretty excited when I saw the second one earlier. A group “DGM” is active in a private school, trying to right the wrongs of bullying. The characters are mostly interesting (one or two vapid ones) and the story has some intriguing twists.

And, that’s it for part 1. Not bad with the summer I’ve had…Now, sadly, I’m off to do some thesis reading. Gotta do it now, otherwise my Pavlovian response kicks in, and I start drifting off.


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