As you may remember from my April post, my dear friend Julie mentioned that moms like her – moms with young children that make reading a postcard in one sitting challenging – need a “best of” highlight in my monthly book reviews so that they can skip right to the one book they shouldn’t miss. This month, that book is:
Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
Technically, this book is a murder mystery. The main character, Dr. White, is suspected of murdering her friend and neighbor. Dr. White is a former surgeon suffering from dementia. The plot was secondary for me. What captivated me about this book was the way LaPlante captured the distortion and decline of dementia patients with almost poetic prose. If you are inclined to judge this book by the plot, my rave won’t make sense. But, if you want a book that takes on a rarely covered subject with grace and skill, read this.
Now, for the rest of you who may have room for more than one addition to your To Be Read pile…
Writing down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
One of the writing canon essentials I’d never read. Technically, I didn’t “read” it this time either. But, I did listen to it on CD. And, it was awesome. The audiobook version may even be better than the print version because Goldberg supplements her original writing (done in her 30s) with commentary that benefits from hindsight and additional years of experience. This book will only appeal to writers, but if you are a writer and haven’t read it yet, get on it.
And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman
I grabbed this book from the library shelf because the title and cover appealed to me. It’s a play on Mother Goose’s Girl with a Curl. I found that clever and that was enough for me. I liked, but didn’t love this book. It’s my first book by Laura Lippman and I liked it enough to want to read more. I love a good mystery, and Lippman is supposed to be a master, but this one didn’t have me sitting on the edge of my seat. I liked the main character, Heloise, a suburban madam. But, as far as character-driven novels with likable madams go, I prefer Ruta Sepetys’ Out of The Easy.
Drowned by Therese Bohman
I read a review that heralded this as a thriller in the vein of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Scandanavian author Bohman does create a thriller of sorts, but it is much more psychological than action-based. Bohman writes a deceptively calm novel that creeps you out and sets you on edge more than it makes your heart race. I appreciated what she accomplished with her narrative, but wouldn’t compare her to Stieg Larsson. I hate how sexual deviance and aggression seems to be the main currency in thrillers. This one is no exception.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
I bought this book because my vacation went better than I anticipated and I was out of library books. There weren’t many choices at the rural Target that didn’t involve bodice ripping. I’m a sucker for comedic essays and memoirs, so I chose this book. And, it worked for me. The essay topics were jumpy and disjointed, but as celebrity books go, it was a win. Kaling is a gifted writer who has proven her comedic chops on television and now in print.
I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections by Nora Ephron
I have a crush on Nora Ephron. I could read her writing all day every day. Her tone and topics appeal to me and she knows exactly how to hit my funny bone. This book is no exception. A quick but delightful read.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Sometimes young adult books transcend the genre and have enough depth to win over adult readers. This one doesn’t. I think the dominant struggle in the book – whether the heroine gives into death or fights to live – may convince a teen reader but it didn’t convince me. The pros/cons as evaluated by the main character seemed shallow and trite and in the end I actually didn’t care if she lived or died. I am, of course, appropriately barred from complaining that a book I took from the YA section lacked maturity.
So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids by Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne
This book was recommended at a lecture I attended at my son’s school. I actually found the lecture more helpful than the book. I was expecting more research based data, instead the book was heavy on anecdotes. The data that is included in the book (primarily on media exposure/quantity) is troubling to be sure. This book reinforced some of the choices our family makes but didn’t provide the data and analysis I was expecting. For folks not living in communities where discussions about sexuality and media are occurring, this book may be helpful. For those already having robust conversations about these topics, I don’t think this book has much to add.