I’ve been out of town and unplugged, so my July book reviews are tardy. Like last month, my reading was dictated by the Seattle Public Library’s summer reading BINGO card.
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
This book was so fun! Smart, funny, and nerdy all wrapped together and tied with a coming-of-age ribbon. Michael L. Printz Honor Book, LA Times Book Prize Finalist, ALA BBYA, Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of the Year, Booklist Editors’ Choice, Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year.
Glaciers by Alex M. Smith
Category: Local Author
Every line counts in this short and sweet book about a day in the life of twenty-something Isabel who works with damaged books and collects things that others leave behind. This is a quiet, reflective, and beautiful book perfect for those who like lyrical prose.
Surveillance by Jonathan Raban
Category: Set in the NW
Oh, man. I’m not sure how to review this book. Raban is an excellent writer. I enjoyed each step of the journey…right up to the destination which was so bizarre, sudden, and unconnected that it pulled the rug out from under everything that went before. I suspect this is the kind of book where others with more artistic sensibility will talk about the statement the ending made. I suspect that I will continue to hate it.
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
This book tells the story of Naila who is removed from her American high school and returned to Pakistan where she is forced to marry. The writing is simple, the chapters are short, and the pace is quick. The author’s note at the back distinguishes between arranged marriage (which Saeed herself has benefited from) and forced marriage, but that distinction is not clearly teased out in the novel’s narrative.
Fledgling by Octavia Butler
Category: Out of your comfort zone
For this Bingo square, I put out a call on Facebook: “SPL summer reading bingo requires a book out of my comfort zone. Now accepting recommendations for vampire novels, bodice-rippers, or books by Ann Coulter.” Octavia Butler was recommended more than once. I enjoyed this story about kinder/gentler vampires who enter into symbiotic relationships. It’s sexy without being sensational (with the exception of the pre-teen/adult interaction at the beginning) and thoughtful without being didactic.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Category: You own, but had never read
This is the story of 13-year old Brian’s survival in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash. I read this Newberry Honor book primarily to screen it for Son. I love stories that show the resourcefulness and resilience of humans. This book provides that for a younger audience. I think Son (8) is too young for this but that it will be perfect in a couple of years.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Category: Author under 30
I was confused for most of the beginning of this dystopian novel, despite the explanatory charts. Eventually, the story took off and I was able to immerse myself in the action. The pacing was slower than I expected, but worked. I could feel the weight of the groundwork being laid for sequels, but enjoyed the strong heroine and the complex world that Shannon built.
The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
Category: Published the year you were born
I was excited to see a spy thriller on my list of options for reading from my birth year. Summer is the perfect time for a page-turner and since I’d already seen the movie I was happy to spend some time with a main character I couldn’t help picturing as Matt Damon. This was a fun read. Good, but not great. I am perfectly willing to suspend reality for books like this and embrace far-fetched high-stakes drama and suspense. I found it harder to suspend everything I know about human communication and embrace the stilted, unrealistic dialogue.
The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
Category: Turned into a movie
I was excited to have an excuse to read a Nicholas Sparks book. I’ve seen a few movies based on his books and am a totally sucker for sappy. I expected to enjoy this written version of a chick flick, but didn’t. I couldn’t find the tension and attraction needed to carry the story on the page. There were parts of the book where I wished I was watching the film adaptation. Rather than being told that the characters were attracted to each other, I could be convinced by prolonged eye contact or a zoom in on a gentle touch. I also struggled with the two separate story lines. The two sets of characters weren’t equally engaging and I found myself slogging through one story line while waiting impatiently for a return to the other.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Category: You’ve been meaning to read
This book has received a lot of hype and at first I shunned it as a fad. But, eventually curiosity got the best of me. For me, this book would be better as an essay. The book was full of repetition. Nevertheless, the idea of choosing what to keep (based on whether or not it brings you joy) rather than what to discard is a useful lens through which to view your belongings and take steps toward minimalism. I did the clothes stage of the tidying process for myself and my kids and our drawers have never looked better.