Sunday, August 19, 2012

Summer Reading

My new writerly life has me reading a lot of unpublished stuff. Works in progress of my author friends, some unpublished manuscripts, that kind of thing. And it’s a lot of fun, for sure. But in the past few months, I found myself drifting away from the one thing that spurred me to write in the first place: Reading. Real books. I missed it. So I made it a point this summer to get back to it. I think I did okay. Here’s what I read and what I thought.  Just in case you give a hoot. J

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.
Plot: A man’s wife goes missing on the day of their five year anniversary. Between Nick’s (the husband) search for Amy (his wife) told in alternating chapters with Amy’s past diary entries, you get an inside look into their marriage, which is not as happy as everyone thinks.
I loved this book. I loved everything about it, even the ending which is getting not so great reviews. There is a thread of evil woven so intricately throughout the plot that by the time you realize it, you are very attached to the people you thought Nick and Amy were. This left me unsettled and a little creeped out for days. It’s true that the end is a tad over the top. I didn’t care at all. It’s up there with one of my favorites, for sure.

A Wolf at the Table, by Augusten Burroughs
Plot: Another Burroughs memoir. This one is different, it predates Running with Scissors, and largely centers around his intensely abusive father. The part that stuck with me the most: Burroughs has a “memory” of helping his father bury a body, but has no idea if it really happened or if it was a dream. At one point in the story, he finally asks his father and the resulting conversation is positively creepy. He is obviously haunted by this vision his entire life.
This is my least favorite Burroughs book. That’s saying a lot because I generally love everything he writes, pretty sure I’ve read it all. This has none of his usual wit and humor (well, very little) that is so shocking that you laugh out loud. It’s very dark. And it’s incredibly sad. But in true Burroughs fashion, it’s ridiculously honest. I probably won’t read it again, but kudos for Burroughs for penning what was clearly a horribly difficult book to write.

The Upright Piano Player, by David Abbott
Plot: Henry Cage once had everything and lost it all, due in part to his own thoughtless actions, reflects on his life. Determined to become a better man, no matter how late in life, he reconnects with his ailing ex-wife and pursues a relationship with his son and grandson. Two distinct tragedies derail his attempts.
This was a very slow, literary read. Which is okay, but it took me a while to get through it. And the beginning is misleading—it opens with the tragic death of Henry Cage’s grandson, for which he blames himself. But this incident happens five years after the conclusion of the book and isn’t really rooted in anything except to reinforce the books continuing theme, which questions whether the life you lead is a result of your actions and attitude, or is instead entirely random. The problem is, the book doesn’t really pick a side, so at the end, I sort of felt a bit cheated. I enjoyed the literary quality of the narrative, Abbott is a wonderful writer. His descriptions are beautiful and the whole book evoked a very lonely, isolated mood. This is the kind of book I will keep around and read to improve my writing. Lit fic fans might enjoy it, but if you like a plottier book to keep you turning the pages, you might want to skip it.

Monsoon Season, by Katie O’Rourke
Plot: Riley is running away from an abusive relationship, back to her parent’s house, halfway across the country. The crux of the book is the relationships. Riley and her boyfriend, Ben’s, Riley and her parent’s, even some flashbacks from Riley’s mother’s point-of-view regarding her father.
I enjoy multiple point of view stories, so I liked the bouncing around. The main plot centers around Riley and Ben’s relationship, it’s evolution and destruction. I found myself wishing for a different ending. I’m never one to advocate staying in an abusive relationship, of course, but the author painted Ben with such humanity, I almost rooted for him. I wanted him to seek help, better himself. I almost wished she had asked the taboo questions: Are abusers ruined people? Can they recover? But this wasn’t the book O’Rourke wrote. In the end, Riley fell out of love, did not succumb to the trap that so many women do, and overall, that’s a good thing. I enjoyed the characterizations of this story the most, parts of the narrative are practically poetic, and would definitely read more from this author.

As I Close My Eyes, by Sarah DiCello
Plot: Danielle Grayson has visions of a previous life after a boating accident, and starts to recognize all the people in her past life as those in her present life.
DiCello paints a very strong main character, Danielle reminded me of me at that age. Her setting descriptions were so pretty and vivid, I felt like I was there. The plot in this book was very cool, and the juxtaposition of present day against the Victorian era sections made for an interesting read. I liked the ending, but it didn’t resolve itself, there’s clearly a sequel coming. It’s a light easy read, which was nice because I read it after Wolf. The love story developed a little quickly for me, but overall, it didn’t matter. It was still a perfect beach read.

The Indie Section

Fat-Bottomed Girls, by Clair Gibson
Plot: Two forty-something roommates win a lottery – not enough to change their lives but with their winnings, they decide to take a trip around the world and follow a Queen tribute band.
I thought this book was great fun. It’s not deep. It won’t make you reflect on your life. It’s pure chick lit. It’ll make you call your best girlfriend and make the date you’ve been meaning to make for a while. There’s a pretty good steamy scene in the middle, too, for all of you missing your 50 Shades. ;)

Counterpointe, by Ann Warner
Plot: A ballerina and a scientist fall in love and marry. They face a crisis of faith in each other when the ballerina suffers a career ending injury. Each runs away, one to the jungles of Peru, the other mere miles from where she started.  Can they find their way back to each other?
I enjoyed the read--Warner has a way with words and her writing is very pretty, simple, and clear. At it’s heart, it’s a romance but not in the bodice ripper way. Rob and Clare have a sparking chemistry, if not a bit understated. The descriptions of the Peruvian jungle and the life there were fascinating and made me wonder if Warner had actually been there. Warner has three other novels on Amazon, and I plan on reading more from this author!

Next up: Sister, by Rosamund Lupton