9.06.2018

Books I Read in August 2018

Tap, tap... Is this thing still on?! Yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve been on this space. Unlike previous summers where I took a purposeful break, I just ended up feeling 'meh' about books I planned to write reviews for, and just took them off the schedule. One DNF: I just couldn’t get into Ohio by Stephen Markley, a little too much forced intellectual rambling. And one that I thought was okay, but didn’t really have much to say about: The Simple Wild, reviewed below. I also abandoned Still Lives, the Reese Witherspoon book club pick. So, I had more duds than I've had in years last month. HOWEVER! There were also some excellent books and one favorite of the year, for sure...

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Jumping on the bandwagon, because I was so excited for the film and it did not disappoint, neither did the book! I had put it off for a long time, because reviews are definitely mixed. I LOVED the prologue of this book, as I am a sucker for some sweet, sweet schadenfreude and was hooked. After the initial window into Nick's family life at a young age, it took me a little bit to get into a rhythm of the story with so very many family members and connections to puzzle out. But once his unwitting girlfriend Rachel joins him in Singapore I felt like it picked up steam. I loved being on this ridiculous roller coaster with her and seeing the sights through her eyes. I loved all of the hilarious and lack of self-awareness juxtapositions of these crazy rich characters and found Kwan's footnotes about this society fascinating. That he grew up in this bubble then moved to Texas, giving him perspective and an outsider's view, is also fascinating. I totally have wanderlust and want to go to Singapore now! 

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand
Reading a Hilderbrand novel every summer is a favorite tradition of mine and, as always, this was the perfect immersive Nantucket experience in book form, with another cast of vivid characters that interconnect in an utterly seamless way. I love feeling like I'm getting to know all of the people on the island and I thought it was fun that she took a crack at a mystery. I was guessing until the shocking and unsettling end. She left some room for future hi jinks, in which I hope she indulges. Her work is often considered fluff, but I find that she is masterful at creating atmosphere (expertly setting a scene and putting Nantucket on many a reader's bucket list) and character development. Her novels all seem to have a large cast of characters, but I never find this to be unwieldy. As soon as a name is mentioned, I know who she’s talking about because in a few paragraphs she can give even the smallest bit player unique traits and a rich, memorable back story. If it wasn't immediately clear, I just love her work and look forward to every winter and summer for a fix!

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
I gobbled up this story about a woman navigating her life after a tragic accident in record time. Some of the characters felt hyperbolic: it was clear how we were to feel about her overbearing mother and fianc├ę Chip, a total cad. There were quite a few side plots, but all were rather  thoughtful and engrossing. There are very similar themes, and I would definitely suggest How to Walk away for fans of Me Before You.

The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker
I am thankful for the folks at Atria for a complimentary digital galley for review. Yet, this was a hard one for me to get into, as the main character seems so purposely unlikeable. I understand that Calla is a city girl who falls for a Alaskan bush pilot when going to visit her estranged father, and the two need to be complete opposites for the tension of the narrative to unfold. But, being overly vapid and entitled doesn't seem necessary - ANYONE who has lived in a major city would have a hard time adjusting to middle-of-nowhere Alaska. Must she be coddled and still living with her parents? Addicted to makeup? Just DIE without soy for her latte? Also, within the first pages there is an editorial error which kind of put me off, because I'm a stickler for such things (deep SEEDED instead of the correct term, deep SEATED) and I chalked it up to being an ARC that is hopefully rectified in the published copy. I'm glad I decided to stick with it, because I had heard so very many good things. Her father and the community of people she encounters in Alaska are lovingly drawn characters that I found rather compelling, and was moved by their plights. The romance was fun, and I thought it ended in a well thought out and satisfying way. 

Less by Andrew Sean Greer
I was a little wary going into this book, as there are many mixed reviews. I think that the Pulitzer win threw readers off and the book wasn't necessarily judged on it's own, but rather it's worthiness of the prize. I found it absolutely delightful and sweet, with amazing wordplay, wit and self deprecating humor. I didn’t always rush to pick it up, but when I did, I couldn't put it down. I loved the characters, laughed out loud A LOT and, oh my heart, I adored the ending. I must share my favorite quote, as someone who moved away from a big city and doesn't visit often:
"New York is a city of 8 million people, approximately 7 million of them will be furious when they hear you were in town and didn’t meet them for an expensive dinner, 5 million furious you didn’t visit their new baby, 3 million furious you didn’t see their new show, 1 million furious you didn’t call for sex, but only five actually available to meet you."

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
As I mentioned, I had started the Reese Witherspoon book club pick and just couldn’t get into it. Sharp Objects had been sitting on my shelf for awhile and figured it would fill the thriller void that Still Lives left behind. It has been YEARS since I read Flynn, and dang, she’s really great at what she does. Her writing is perfectly nuanced and pitch perfect in the creepiness, dread and tension infused into the smallest turns of phrase, like when she's describing one of the many moment's of panic Camille faces: 
"I could feel my limbs disconnecting, floating nearby like driftwood on an oily lake." 
*SHUDDER* I also thought the ending wasn’t terribly shocking, but then the other shoe drops in the prologue and ZOMG. I’m running to watch the show now...

7 comments:

  1. Sometimes books just don't click. It's good to embrace the DNF! I've been back and forth on whether or not to try Less, so it's nice to see a positive review. (Gotta love that quote.) I feel like I often don't like Pulitzer books so am wary of them. Maybe i should try it before the end of the year. Hope your September reading is going well.

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    1. It's a super short book, too - so I definitely recommend giving it a try!!

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  2. I ditched Ohio as well...way too much. Totally overhyped.
    But, glad you finally found some books that worked for you!

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    1. Yeah it was a weird month with some low lows and high highs!

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  3. You brilliant woman- DNFing Ohio. For whatever reason I read to the bloody end (literally, it's gruesome) and regret the wasted time. He was very pleased with his vocabulary skills.

    I'm glad you had some high notes in August! I'm in the love with the whole Crazy Rich Asians trilogy and may go back to see the movie a second time- just because it made me so happy! Which is hard to find these days, right?

    Here's hoping your Sept reading picks up.

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    1. Well it was thanks to you (and Sarah!) that I figured it wasn’t worth it, so thank you! I think I’m getting all sorts of courageous about ditching books lately, as with still lives­čść

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  4. Enjoyed your reviews! I agreed with those I have also read. Need to check out Sharp Objects.

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