Recent Reads, Vol II

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: I'm not sure what took me so long to read this one, but as the Pulitzer season approached I wanted to pick up a recent winner. I couldn't help but feel bad for Oscar, the super-dork struggling to overcome a family curse. But even so, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I got to spend with him.  Also, the footnotes are awesome. 

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain: This novel appeared on so many "Best of 2012" lists I had hard time ignoring it. Books about war don't usually appeal to me in the general sense, but I'm really glad I gave this one a shot. There are many present-day truths underlined and examined and to top it off, it's funny as hell. 

Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam: I'm a sucker for anything compared to Lolita and after I read about Lamb, I picked it up soon after. Nadzam's debut intrigued me from start to finish. It's both lovely and disturbing in a pervy way. I enjoyed it immensely. Nadzam poses questions that she never fully answers, leaving the reader to discern what they will. This one would make for a great book club pick, as it leaves much to discuss. 

Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster: Auster is easily one of my favorite writers but I found this book to be just. plain. boring. If it weren't so short, I likely wound't have finished it. Goes to show great novelists don't always write good books. 


Recent Reads

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan: This book can be summed up in one passage: "It was not the sea that was cruel, but the people." The novel was entertaining enough, but it was on the predictable side and didn't offer anything I haven't read before.  If I could go back and read it again, I wouldn't.

My Ideal Bookshelf by Thessaly La Force (art by Jane Mount): I found this one at Half Price Books and scooped it up immediately. It was so much fun to read about the favorite books of Dave Eggers, Judd Apatow, and Patti Smith, among others; the books that shaped them and those that helped them grow and rethink the world around them. Best of all, it got me thinking about my own ideal bookshelf. 

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole: I didn't know much about this novel before I picked it up, with the exception of the incredible story behind its publication. Turns out, I was in for quite the treat. Ignatius J. Reilly is obnoxious and crude and utterly hilarious. This book had be laughing out loud - a lot. Fortuna was on my side when a friend gifted me this novel a few months back. I am also traveling to New Orleans in May and I'm so happy to have read this before my trip.

Vaclav and Lena
by Haley Tanner: This book kept popping up on "Favorite Love Story" lists around Valentine's Day and I'm so glad it fell on my radar. This is a sweet, charming love story about two Russian children who meet in ESL class and are forever connected. Tanner writers in simple language and a fresh voice; you could probably finish this one in a day if you wanted to.


January Reads

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: I was told this one would make me cry uncontrollably. Remarkably enough, I did not. With that said, I did find it to be an incredibly touching story that I won't soon forget. If I had known for about its central theme before I purchased it, I don't think I would have bought it. But I'm really happy I did. 

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: As a big fan of Sloan's short story that inspired this novel, I have to say the book was a bit of a let down. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I felt removed from the story and the characters seemed rather flat. But it does get extra points for a glow in the dark book jacket. 

Attachments by Rainbow Rowel: I wouldn't have picked this one up on my own, but after reading how much Laura and Alice and Alley liked it, I gave it a go. This one was fun to read and had me laughing out loud a lot. A perfectly light and clever read.

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon: I'm still trying to wrap my head around this one. I'll just tell you that after I watched The Usual Suspects for the first time I wanted to start the movie over immediately upon finishing it to see all the things I missed after knowing the ending. This book is the literary version of that feeling. 

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach: Mary Roach is really good at writing about science in a way that makes it accessible and really fun to read about. This one will tell you everything you ever wanted to know, and some things you prefer not to know, about humans in space. I didn't find it to be as interesting as Stiff, but I've always been more intrigued by dead people than space.


2013 Reading Plans

Starting about last October I began to feel uninspired to write proper reviews of books I read. The task felt more like a chore than a hobby. At first I thought maybe it was just a slump, but four months later I am still struggling. I started to put some thought into this dilemma; regardless of whether I loved the book or barely got through it, all of the sudden it takes a lot to make myself write something about it.

I started this blog in 2009 and at that point it didn't have much direction. Near the start of 2010 I began to treat it as a book blog and began reviewing each book I read. Three years and 143 reviews later, I am ready to take a break. I don’t plan to leave completely, but for now I am going to do away with writing a few paragraphs about each book I read and instead opt for something a little more concise. I have yet to decide exactly how I’ll go about this, but it will ultimately involve fewer posts, as I’ll probably group a few books into one post.

So in 2013 I have decided to do away with challenges and memes and traditional reviews and get back to reading for the sake of reading. 

Image via weheartit.com