Mini-reviews: Dealing with grief, Jack Sparrow’s voice whispering in your ear, and trying to find the right voice.

It will surprise no one to learn that I did a fair bit of reading over Spring Break. Hey – there’s only so much bonding I can do with Netflix, dealing with bronchitis or nah. And the topics were flung far and wide…

Book85Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff (Riverhead Books, 2015, 400 pages, ebook). I am not a Lauren Groff fan. Yes, I know I’m going to dodge tomatoes for saying that. The woman’s got writing chops, they’re just not for me. And while I appreciated the premise of the book – the story of a marriage told from one perspective, and then surprise! the other spouse’s very different perspective – there’s just something about Groff’s voice that won’t let me connect. Fates was shortlisted for the Tournament of Books, though, so I had to give it a whirl. It was better than Arcadia and Monsters of Templeton, so I’ll at least peruse the next one. Maybe it’s just a matter of finding the right time to pair up. 2 of 5 stars.

Book84In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf, 2016, 233 pages, library hardcover). Lahiri is an author I really enjoy, one I will constantly pair with Khaled Hosseini in my mind because I’ve read their books in pairs since I discovered them. I read Interpreter of Maladies (my favorite) around the time I read Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Namesake right after I read The Kite Runner. I couldn’t have planned it better if I tried! I knew In Other Words was a love story of a different variety – still about family and the transcendental nature of generations, passion, and cultural pockets, but this time one rooted in words and writing. Lahiri fell deeply in love with the Italian language and moved her family to Italy to chase after her dreams and live fully immersed. In Other Words was her experimental mapping of her adventures and discoveries, one as intimate as any memoir though the doors into her feelings and musings looked a little less conventional. I enjoyed every page and envied the apparent ease with which she so easily shared how such a project unfolded. Definitely read if you enjoy Lahiri’s fiction or stories about the art of writing. 4 of 5 stars.

Book83Savvy, by Ingrid Law (Dial, 2008, 342 pages, borrowed). Corrie literally shoved this book into my hands and told me to read it because her reluctant reader had devoured this and the next in the series. It’s the story of a family who have all come into a secret special power when they turn 13. Just before Mibs turns 13 and is about to discover her “savvy”, her father has an accident and all seems lost. Okay, first – how do you read this book (disappointingly not about pirates) and not hear Jack Sparrow say the word “savvy” every time you read it? You can’t. Which is why you’re disappointed the book isn’t about pirates. The premise was cute enough, although I don’t think it’s the type that will capture my kiddos’ attention, and it wasn’t special enough for me to shout about from the rooftops. A decent read, just not anything that stands out. But if Captain Jack wants to rethink an appearance… 3 of 5 stars.

Book82The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, by Stephen King. (Scribner, 1999, 224 pages, paperback). This was next up on my Stephen King Re-Read Project and I was glad for it. I don’t think I’ve read it since it came out, which isn’t to say I didn’t like it. I like it just fine. It’s a good survivalist type book, a particular weakness of mine. The suspense and heartbreak and psychological wobbling of leaving a 9-year-old girl alone in the woods for days is a mighty fine pitch for King, and I applauded all over again how was able to keep it as straight-laced as he did. For a reader still afraid of the dark, it didn’t take special effects to make this story any scarier than it already was. It doesn’t hurt that the Red Sox are my happy place, too. 3 of 5 books.

Book81H Is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald (Jonathan Cape, 2014, 320 pages, ebook). I’m going to buy multiple copies of this book. I wish I had my own copy the first time through so I could highlight and dog-ear and jot notes in the margins. A friend from my bookish community recommended the book to me after we gushed about lyrical passages in another book and Care was right – MacDonald’s writing is lush and gorgeous and the kind you want to roll around in. What I found even more meaningful was MacDonald’s unflinching examination of her grief after unexpectedly losing her father. I’m still reeling from the loss of my uncle and I found MacDonald’s use of falconry as a tool to process her grief something I could latch onto. I’m not a falconer and I don’t even have a lot of interest in the subject, but MacDonald created a window that helped shine a light on things I didn’t know I needed in just this particular way. I’ll recommend this book to anyone processing deep, unmoveable grief, but I’ll also recommend it to anyone who appreciates powerful storytelling of being called to a particular journey at a particular time in your life. 5 of 5 stars. 

Book80We Are the Ants, by Shaun David Hutchinson. (Simon Pulse, 2016, 455 pages, hardcover). This book has been on my bookshelf for awhile. Not terribly long, not like since-two-Christmases-ago type of long, but enough. It was part of the BookRiot YA box and my problem was that I didn’t think I would like it. I don’t do fantasy. I don’t do science fiction. A teenage boy who is being abducted by aliens and told he has to choose whether to let the world end on January 29 or press a button to save it? So not my thing. But everyone was saying how good it was and then they were comparing the book to something by A.S. King, and King is my type of thing. And I already had the book whether I wanted it or not. So I read the first few pages. And couldn’t stop. You guys – this book. This book is POWERFUL. This book is heartbreaking. Aside from the three chapters I gulped down when I cracked it open – because right before bed – I read this book in one day as the girls Netflixed and painted and did any number of things I didn’t notice because I was reading. I don’t remember a book that captures the particular hell of high school bullying as well as this, or one that handles depression and suicide in a way that didn’t sound trite or cliched or so, so carefully showed (rather than told) how to get through this hour. And this one. And this one. That there were good things that looked crappy and crappy things that stayed (but some that got a sliver better) and how sometimes things just were. That those can be the toughest things of all. And you guys – this book. This book’s ending didn’t suck! I mean, kind of because I wanted something tidy, but the ending fit perfectly for the story it was attached to. READ IT, you guys. It’s compulsive writing and deep, meaningful thoughts and themes every person navigates at some point in their life. It is amazing. 5 of 5 stars.

Book79The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt (Knopf, 2002, 555 pages, hardcover). This is one of the books I’ve had for two Christmases and one of the ones that inspired my participation in the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge. I had been holding off because Tartt makes me nervous – I loved the stuffing out of Goldfinch, but hated Secret History and I wasn’t sure which storyteller would show up. It was Goldfinch, mixed with Harper Lee, and okay, no it wasn’t warm, but it worked for me. Little Friend tells the story of a young boy who is found hanging from a tree on Mother’s Day and the secrets that are kept as years go by, only to be dug up by the boy’s sister years later when she decides to figure out who killed him. A southern-fried mystery that reads a lot faster than the heft suggests. 3 of 5 stars.

So there you go! If you’re not heading for your library or local bookstore to grab We Are the Ants, seriously – go. Do it. Report back. Because I needs to discuss it.



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