I have to admit: even my jaw dropped a little when I saw how many books I finished this past week. I guess between my speedreading superpowers and the fact that I’ve been getting in some reading before bedtime again and that Bee’s After Care program no longer lets the kids out early – even 15-20 minutes early – means I have more chunks of time to sit and get my books on. Which, hooray!
So what did I read this past week?
5. Texts from Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg. (Henry Holt & Co., 2014, 226 pgs.) My partner in crime, Corrie, gave me this for my birthday and I’ve been meaning to read it, but somehow kept forgetting about it. It’s the perfect palette-cleanser after a long day at the office. Want to re-hash favorite scenes (or newly imagined scenes) between favorite literary characters as if they were texting from the next room? BOOM. Someone’s already done it for you. I liked how the scenes were short enough that I could sip from them while I was doing chores without throwing off my mad housekeeping skillz (snort) or keeping me from zipping through the book in an hour. Great, as long as you’re not expecting heft or a life-changing literary experience. 3 of 5 stars.
6. A Possible Life: A Novel in Five Parts, by Sebastian Faulks. (Henry Holt & Co., 2012, 304 pgs.) This has been on my TBR for awhile now, and I finally snagged an e-copy from my library. I know I’m not much of a short-story person, but when the stories are linked, usually I can sink deeper into them and enjoy myself. Also, these were set during WWII, Victorian England, a 19th century French village – some of my favorite settings! This should have been okay! Yeah – should have been. Turns out it wasn’t really. The plot(s) were fine, it’s just that I had a hard time connecting with the voice. I was ho-humming along, but not really, because I just didn’t care what happened to my characters. Something felt off. I was conscious of reading. It was well done, but Faulks is clearly not an author I can connect with. (Though I’m happy to report that at least the WWII story was my favorite, just as I had predicted. At least I was able to get that much out of it.) 2 of 5 stars.
7. What Can I Do When Everything’s on Fire?, by Antonio Lobo Antunes. (W.W. Norton & Co., 2008, 585 pgs.) This was another e-book I filched from the library, but I have to confess: I didn’t finish it. I got about 200 pages in and was still really struggling with the stream-of-consciousness. I never really fell into the narrator’s head, which can make it really difficult. I mean, this story has been compared endlessly to a Faulkner-esque babbling of mad genius, and for good reason. I just…meh. It wasn’t the fault of the translation – it was gorgeously done. In fact, I wasn’t even conscious, like you can be, that it had been written in another language. I wanted to like it – you know descending into madness is my wheelhouse – but if 200 pages hasn’t done it, the next 300 usually won’t. 2 of 5 stars.
8. Rose Madder, by Stephen King. (Viking, 1995, 480 pgs.) This was a re-read for my Stephen King Re-Read Project (things do look fancy when they’re all capitalized, yes?), and it’s in my Top 5 of King’s books, easily. I remember reading it when it first came out and delighting in every word. Okay, not every word – some of it is a bit trite – but the rest is so wonderfully King that you can’t help but overlook the few bumps. After all, there’s travellin’ and some allusions to a certain Dark Tower quest… 5 of 5 stars (and not just because I was so thankful for a good story after the other bombs!)
9. Skippy Dies, by Paul Murray. (Faber & Faber, 2010, 661 pgs.) Gracious, this was a huge book. And a lot was happening! It was one of the books included in my BookRiot Quarterly Box of Awesomeness that my sister gifted me for my birthday, which was rather cool because Skippy Dies has been on my To Read list just about since it came out. It’s a boarding school (Irish, not British)(but may as well have been) kind of book, with a goodish number of characters I had trouble keeping straight and all kinds of hijinks and plotlines afoot. I didn’t want to use the word “hijinks” though because it’s misleading: I heard the book was a slow-burn, but it’s not – nothing ever burns. I mean, sure, stuff happens. Plenty of stuff happens! Stuff with the kids, stuff with their teachers, stuff, stuff, stuff. And you’re reading the whole novel trying to figure out how – or maybe why? – our titular character dies in the prologue. But nothing ever caught fire for me. I wasn’t whipping pages trying to find out more; I was just trying to get through it all. There were a bunch of unnecessary plots, in my opinion, and a stronger editor may have helped. But really, it just didn’t do it for me. (Though I’ve been assured that his new book is much different. I’m hoping this is a Secret History/Goldfinch kind of divide for me, where i hate the first book, but love the second. 2 of 5 stars.
10. None of the Above, by I.W. Gregorio. (Balzer & Bray, 2015, 352 pgs.) Ending on a high note! Woot! You know how many times I’ve commented that maybe I just didn’t like a book because it wasn’t the right time? Funny thing: my hold for this finally came through at the library. So I go to download it (it was an ebook) and the servers go down at the library! I mean, really?! I was so afraid my checkout process would time out or the hold wouldn’t still be held and gah! I NEEDED to read the book so bad by that point! A YA book dealing with the popular girl-next-door who finds out her senior year that she’s intersex? COME ON, SERVERS! Of course my problem was eventually solved and I started reading…only to find out I had actually started reading the story before. And forgot or something? I vaguely remembered thinking the writing was a bit too kitchy in the first chapter; a little too YA for me. But this time, this time I was able to push through with only a few winces and hooboy am I glad. This book was marvelous. We need more books like this. So many more! Gregorio – who’s a surgeon in addition to writing books – dealt with the subject with immeasurable grace and incredible realism. There were a myriad of reactions to Krissy’s unplanned reveal and so many consequences – and not all of them were terrific. Some broke my heart. And some made me smile as if Krissy was a real live person to root for. Gregorio showed rather than told, and asked questions and left a few unanswered. Because not all questions about identity and sexuality and just being a person even have answers, you know? My favorite part was the author’s note at the end that discussed why she used some terms – including hermaphrodite – and listed other books that could help or discussed similar topics and also a list of research material. Every library, every school, every reading list needs to include this book. 5 of 5 stars.
Whew! That’s a lot of reading. You can tell the weekends when I don’t have a house full of kids, can’t you? Heh. Now off I go – I have a few minutes before I’m needed anywhere and there’s this YA book about another difficult topic that I’m almost finished with…
Tags: #15in31, A Possible Life, Antonio Lobo Antunes, I. W. Gregorio, None of the Above, Paul Murray, reading, Reading challenge, Rose Madder, Sebastian Faulks, Skippy Dies, Stephen King, Texts from Jane Eyre, What Can I Do When Everything's On Fire