Books I Read In June and July

I am trying to do these lists a little more often (I’d say monthly but we see how well that’s working out) so I have half a chance of remembering them and so I can go into a little more detail.

96.  My Korean Deli.  This was a lot less interesting than I wanted it to be.  The author would get started on a story – for example how he maxed out the company credit card accidentally buying a lot of crazy yuppie food items.  Then you’d never hear anything about it again.  Did that stuff sell?  Did he get in trouble?  Did he return it uneaten?  It had the potential to be very interesting but the whole book was full of unfinished tangents.

97.  A Solitary Blue.  This is the the third book in the Tillerman Series, and it’s one of those books that features a parent who is so awful that the book is almost unreadable.  It’s still Cynthia Voigt so it’s still great, but whew! This kids mother is really wretched, and she calls him “Jeffey” all the time, which doesn’t help matters.

98.  What Happened to Goodbye.  As Sarah Dessen books go, this was not one of my favorites, but I liked it better than the previous one.

99.  Ten Miles Past Normal.  This book was just so hung up on the premise (girl in high school lives in a farm, but wants people to think she’s normal and not Weird Farm Girl) that it never gave itself the space to just be.  Really you’re going to go to school with hay in your hair?  Because you live on a farm?  Oh no you are not.  Please.

100.  Bossypants.  I heard Tina Fey read from “A Letter to My Daughter”, an essay from this book, on Fresh Air, and it was honestly the best part of the book.  The rest of it was funny and interesting and well written, especially the stuff about her mom and her childhood, but hearing her read it was much funnier that reading it myself.

101.  This Girl Is Different.  About a girl who is home schooled and decides to spend her last year of high school enrolled in the local public high school.  Certainly not the worst YAF I’ve read this year, but it didn’t change my world or anything.  I was missing something from the main character, she seemed a little distant or contrived or something.

1o2.  City of Fallen Angels.  This is the fourth book in the Mortal Instruments series.  By Book Three I was really tired of this series, but I LOVED the fourth book.  It redeemed the series for me.  So cheesy and romantic and distraught!  There are two more books in the series, and there’s a movie planned, of course.

103.  An Object of Beauty.  This is Steve Martin’s new book, and I think if you liked Shopgirl then you would like this book.  I really loved it. It was a good story full of interesting people.  I have to say that I read this right after I saw Friends With Benefits and then I always pictured the  main character as Mila Kunis in my head, which  made me like me it even more, because I’ve always been quite fond of Ms. Kunis.

104.  Please Don’t Come Back From the Moon.  I have noticed that I seem to be reading a lot more adult novels and a lot less young adult fiction right now.  But really, the YAF offerings have been pretty wretched of late.  I don’t want to read any more badly written dystopian fantasies.  I was pleasantly surprised to find though, that a lot of these grown up books that I have been avoiding for years because they are so often pretentious and boring, were actually quite wonderful.  This book was strange, but lovely and arresting and very well written. It reminded me a little bit of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, it had that odd haunting sad quality and that same fantastical feeling,  but there was something really gritty and real about it too, somehow.  And the title alone is just so beautiful, that carries the book for quite awhile just on that.

105.  The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  I had zero interest in reading this book, but it showed up on the Lucky Day shelf at my library and I figured, eh, why the hell not?  Regardless of the controversy that occured when it was first published, I really really enjoyed it.  The author herself is smart and hard working as hell and yes, she expects the same things of her daughters.  Is that really the end of the world?  It made me feel very much more confident in my own parenting, because I am a pretty strict parent and I am not the one that my son likes best.  Somehow when I read this book a little bell went off in my head and I thought “you know, it’s not my job to make my kids like me. It’s my job to bring them up to be good and happy people.”  That was a long lesson coming, and I appreciate that concept so much.  It is one thing to say ‘I am not a friend, I am a parent!” but to put it into practice and to actually be an unpopular person in your household because of it is an entirely different animal all together.  I thought this book was funny and the author seemed very human and yes, she was an intense parent, but she seemed very real and very witty and self deprecating and pretty willing to point out her own flaws.  A very honest portrayal of parenthood, and I really appreciated it.  I think most people are terrified to be that honest about their own parenting.

106.  When the Stars Go Blue.  Oh, I wanted to love this book, because it’s about a ballet dancer and I love all that shit – Center Stage, the Shoes Books, A Very Young Dancer, Black Swan, etc.  I may possibly have once seen Honey IN the movie theater.  Anyway, this book was just awkward and weird and really super long.  The first bit wasn’t entirely awful but about the middle point the relationship between the two main characters just got really unappealing and the weird clingy pathetic boyfriend was not doing it for me.  I had to quit this 2/3 of the way through because I couldn’t take it anymore because the boyfriend gave me the intense icks.

107.  The Cookbook Collector.  This is a long and strange book and I loved it.  Halfway through I turned to Erik and just said “This is so good.” and I do not say that about very many books while I am reading them.   If you’re at all interested in Berkeley or cookbooks or strange interlinking relationships or bookstores well,  I don’t know. I guess that’s a wide range. I just thought this was really wonderful and it was filled with the sorts of characters who seem like such interesting and funny people.  It was super long though, I think 1/4 of it could have been lopped off and then it would really have been perfect.

108.  The Girl She Used to Be.  This book was so bad as to be unreadable.  It was almost laughably bad, but not even that could save it.

109.  Family History.  So I think there is this whole genre of books where someone starts with a really horrible awful life scenario that could maybe somehow occur somehow somewhere, usually involving someone’s kids, and then they write an emotionally manipulative book about it, playing on the fears that we all have at 3 A.M. when we think “what if?”.  Stuff like kidnapping or your kid has kidney failure and only your other kid has a matching kidney or your husband abuses your daughter, really nasty stuff, and I have to tell you – I do not appreciate this writing, especially not when it’s all gussied up as fancy literature. I think it’s lazy and predatory and mean and boring, and this book does this, and I am not a fan.  Not a fan at all.

110.  Started Early, Took My Dog.  I find Kate Atkinson’s books really pleasantly reassuring.  I am someone who enjoys a large beefy unflappable main character in a mystery, and Jackson Brodie does that very very well.  I really really like this guy, so I enjoy reading books about him.  I could have done without the old lady character though, I had to skip her sections.

111.  The Lucky Kind.  I had very low expectations for this book, because I really didn’t like The Beautiful Between, but I was a fan of this book.  The main character was interesting and believable and I liked him.  I wanted to know more about him.  I thought that some of the things that happened towards the end of book lacked a basis in reality – I found myself thinking “what? Why is he doing this?” but overall, I enjoyed it.  Not bad at all compared to some of the rotten YAF floating around out there right now.

112.  Dreams of Significant Girls.  Holy cow was this book weird.  It got a nice review in the NYT but it was just so random.  It almost read as though it was…translated?  Do you know that feeling, when sometimes things just don’t seem to match up?  Why on earth were these girls friends?  One minute they hate each other and are uninterested in each other and the next minute they’re pledging best bosomhood to the ends of the earth.  And some of it read like sort of dull 12 year old genre middle grade fiction, all “I want to be a famous chef! I love souffles!” and then on the next page one of them would randomly be giving some dude a BLOW JOB.  It was just so odd.  So very odd.  And so dirty, in a really totally strange-o way.

113.  Rules of Civility.  It took me a little while to get into this book, in fact I almost gave up on it, and then I loved it. I really really really loved it.  The second half of my copy has about eight different pages turned down where I marked the pages because I loved the writing so much.  It was really one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  And so fun! And interesting and everything sounds so lovely because it’s like a love letter to New York in the 30’s and it’s a really beautiful book.  The one flaw is that there are no “—-” when people talk – so annoying.  I forgive it that, but I wish I did not have to. Punctuation, people! It’s the bees knees.

114.  My American Unhappiness.  This is by the same author as Please Don’t Come Back From the Moon.  The first half was enjoyable, by the second half I found the main character so incredibly unlikable that it ruined the book for me.  I can only take so much turdliness for so long before I have the rage.

115.  Lydia.  Ok, so. Tim Sandlin’s novels, especially the Grovont Series, are some of my very favorite books of all time.  Skipped Parts is a desert island book for me.  Skipped Parts is the reason I’ve had the name Maurey on my girl name lists for 10 years.  I can remember the moment I first picked up it up, sitting at a book sale in downtown Chicago, where I was supposed to be working but really I was killing time because no one was buying anything, and after I read the first few chapters I felt like I had discovered some great secret that the world had been holding just for me.  That’s how much I love that book.

Lydia is the fourth installment in the series and as soon as I saw that it had a different publisher from the first three books I suspected trouble, and I was not wrong.  The character of Lydia (the mother in the series) has always been so nuanced – she’s crazy and terrible and wonderful and awful and amazing and all these things at the same time.  And then suddenly in this book that has been lost, and somehow she’s just rotten.  Mean and unfriendly and nasty and not someone who you’d ever want to spend three books with, much less four.  And then because I wanted to preserve my feelings for the first three books because they are something I really do hold sacred, I had to stop reading this, and continue on through life as though it never existed.  I suggest you do the same.  Lah di dah!

116.  The Tragedy of Arthur.  I liked this and it was well written and interesting, if not a little bit confusing and weird, but it got so sad.  I loved the bits about the family in the beginning but everyone got old and hurtful very quickly.  Also this is one of those books that made me feel like maybe I wasn’t quite clever enough for it.  It had a very in jokey feeling and that’s not really a compliment.  Maybe a little gimmicky.

117.  The Tiger’s Wife.  Yeah, I don’t know, this didn’t do it for me.  The world loves it, but I really just don’t do weird fairy tales told by old people that don’t make sense.  I liked the modern day stuff but I hated the stories.  Also, this author is ten years younger than I am.  That’s just depressing.

118.  Body Work.  Man, I used to love Sara Paretsky and her V.I. Warshawski books. I really really loved them, and I have no idea if it’s me or what but I thought this was absolutely rotten.   And she kept trying to sound all hip and reference like, Twitter, and shit, and that’s just…uh.  Cringey.

119.  Faithful Place.  I really liked the writing, although it’s on the bestseller list so I went into it with very low expectations.  (Have you seen the crap on that list?) Anyway, it’s nicely written, but the mystery and the resolution of the mystery felt like it was really reaching.

120.  The Summer I Learned to Fly.  Everyone except me loved The Things A Brother Knows.  Who knows.   I am an enigma.  Anyway, I really liked this book.  It didn’t like, re invent the wheel or anything, but it was nice.  A nice read.

121.  Seven Kinds of Ordinary Catastrophes.  Oh god no.

Then I have the advance reader’s copies I read on my Kindle, which I will get to tomorrow.  Get ready for that nonsense!

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10 Responses

  1. I would recomend A Rose for Melinda by Lurlene McDaniel for you. Its a dancing YA book that came out in 2002.

  2. I’m so glad you liked “Rules of Civility.” I got it on NetGalley and loved it; like you said, it was like a love letter to a bygone New York City.

    Bossypants made me have wetpants. I laughed so much, especially because a lot of her growing up stuff was so much like that of myself and my sister (the awkwardness, “Growing up and Liking It”, etc.) and her particularly brilliant form of self-deprecation that manages to not make her look like a loser. That’s genius.

  3. I keep picking up An Object of Beauty because it’s on Lucky Day and then having to return it, but I pretty much LOVE Steve Martin — his books are so weird, yet so good — so I will definitely read that.

    Actually same with The Cookbook Collector, I’ve had that twice now and had to return it. With your glowing reco, I’ll prob pick it up again. 🙂

  4. 1. I just finished Bossypants and I agree with you about “Letter to My Daughter.” It was the best part (in a book I really enjoyed), and, in fact, it made me cry.

    2. I loved your characterization of Jackson Brodie – totally apt. He’s one of my favorite characters of all time, I think. And the old lady sections really were odd – I thought they were a good approximation of what it must be like to be losing your grip on your memory, but I felt a little… used, I guess, when the old lady’s role was finally revealed.

    3. Have you read the other Tana French books? I can’t recall. But I found the second one to be the best – most interesting plot, most resolution.

  5. Okay I have to read that Started Early, Took My Dog book. I keep looking at it and passing it over…

  6. Oh, ‘A Solitary Blue’. And any of the early Dicey books. They were hard to read as a child, but now that I’m a parent? I am not sure I could handle them. I used to want to smack stupid Melody around even then.

    And now I want to read that Tiger Mother book.

  7. Your review of The Tiger’s Wife? MADE MY DAY, mostly because I feel EXACTLY the same way.

    I will add a few of your books to my list! Thanks!

  8. Let me assure you that “When the Stars Go Blue” gets even WORSE the last 1/3.

  9. I love this post – I always love reading about books and getting recommendations for others.

    I really appreciated your take on the Tiger Mother book – that’s an interesting take, much more level and well-reasoned by much of the screeching I’ve heard about it. I have a nine year old son and my husband and I are forever at odds about how we discipline him. He says I’m way too lenient, I say he’s way too harsh. Probably I need to read this book.

    Re: Faithful Place – I thought the same thing.

  10. I swear that someone else in my Googlereader mentioned Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake more recently, but I can’t find it and I just finished it. Sadly, I just couldn’t find the magic! I loved LOVED the concept. But I felt nothing for the book. How is that possible?

    I loved Faithful Place, although I’ve loved all of Tana French so I wasn’t surprised. And I didn’t care much for Bossypants even though the rest of the world loved it, but it’s probably because I’m not a big fan of Tina Fey. Loved the bits about the Teat Nazis though, given my breastfeeding challenges, and I did read aloud the part where she said that “crazy” is what people call a woman who keeps talking after no one wants to f___ her anymore. Except Betty White, but that’s because people still want to f__ her. That I thought was hilarious, and possibly true.

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