His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
The Big Plot of these books did not surprise me; basically by the end of the second book, I knew what the big stakes were and how the story would resolve itself. That aside, the world Pullman creates is engaging and fun to live within. The main characters are simple in some ways, but endearing and interesting; the myriad supporting characters – especially, to me, the existence of daemons, if you can even consider them separate from their humans – are what really make this triology readable. I raced through each book because: 1) I love fantasy, I can admit that now; and 2) they’re ultimately quite fun. I definitely recommend them for a young reader with an engaged parent (because there ARE some big themes and scary parts) or an adult who wants something lighter, but still not entirely mindless.
The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher
I read this book because it takes place in a fictional Delaware town based on Wilmington, the town in which I (and the author) grew up and I needed one such book for the reading challenge I am doing this year. A young adult, Summer-of-Big-Changes story, the story is one you probably lived to some extent if you were ever a 15-year old girl. That said, there are some edgy, “real life” touches: a girl/girl kiss, underage drinking (and puking), joy-riding in a borrowed car with an unlicensed driver, and a book club organized by mother’s who met in a yoga class. One of my favorite parts of this book was the books the girls choose to read from their AP reading list – The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Anna Perkins;Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin; The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros; and The Awakening by Kate Chopin – and the thoughts the club, both parents and teens, share on these works. Overall, not the best book I’ve ever read, but far from the worst either.
Look at Me by Jennifer Egan
The biggest thing I can say about this book is that I kept the copy so I can read it again at a later time. There is some CRAZY prescience on Egan’s part, when you consider that Look at Me was published in 2001, before September 11th – yes, I am talking a terrorist plot – as well as in terms of how social networks would be a part of our every day lives. There’s also some beautiful writing, some heartbreakingly realistic wrangling with identity. Who we are to others, how we are inside ourselves, and how those two can be very far from one another; a coming of age story, of sorts; and who we are culturally, how we change when we move from place to place. It’s one worth picking up.
Let the Right One In by
I wanted to read this book because I absolutely loved the movie. The book is even more gory and disgusting and gut-wrenchingly bothersome, but the writing is so very compelling. It seems impossible, but while many of the relationships are twisted – they are also sweet. You understand why the two parties have entered into such a relationship because in this book, even the monsters are more than just their monstrosities. Very dark, very disturbing, very scary, all the trigger warnings.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Many people love this book, and it was my first Didion (who I guess everyone loves), but I must admit that I wasn’t blown away. It was heartbreaking and difficult to read, but for whatever reason I felt pretty distant from Didion’s emotions as a reader – perhaps because she herself writes about them somewhat cerebrally. Halfway through another of her books, I realize now that separation and verbosity is just who she is, but it kept me from falling into the depths of mourning with her during Year. At the end, I thought to myself, “Did she ever say that she cried? Am I supposed to assume that she did?” I would never, ever say this book was bad… I just, didn’t feel all the feels that the situation seemed to demand of me.
Best Man In Wyoming by Margot Dalton
I got this book from the free pile in front of the anarchist space near my house. I can sum up the entire story for you: two long-time friends fall in love after a charity bachelor auction, but before they can be together they must deal with the emotional danger of her sexual trauma (which she “gets over” DANG quick, in the end, and the whole thing feels extraneous and opportunistic) and the physical danger of leading a group of boys through a treacherous trip to the mountains. There is some hilariously described sex. There are only attractive men with crooked smiles and beautiful women with beautifully messy hair. It’s a pretty stupid book, but it fulfilled the criteria for “classic romance” in my book challenge.