So…. You may or may not have noticed that Bethany and I haven’t been posting much on our blog lately. Today we are having our annual board meeting at the Vacaville Panera and feeling like we don’t know how to write about books anymore and having guilt about how many books we’ve failed to write about over the past couple of years. Well, I’m feeling guilty. Bethany may not be. So, without further ado, we present you with Snapshots: Book Reviews in One Sentence (or perhaps one short paragraph).
I Regret Nothing, Jen Lancaster (Read in September 2016). This may be the last Jen Lancaster memoir I will ever read. I don’t remember much two and a half years on, but I know that Lancaster’s books are not what they used to be.
The Awakening and other Stories, Kate Chopin (Read in November 2016). I remember loving this short story collection with The Awakening as its anchor. I read The Awakening back in my school days and quite enjoyed it. The other stories in this collection were new to me (there may have been one that I had read before) and they painted a wonderful portrait of a place and a people (the South in the late nineteenth and I think early twentieth century). Definitely recommend.
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (Read in November 2016). My husband had been after me for years to read this book so I finally did. I liked it okay but didn’t love it. I think it would have been more enjoyable when I was younger, before the advent of the Internet. The technology was just too dated to be believable. I mean, how could Ray Bradbury have known that the printed word was not going to be around for that much longer?
In Twenty Years, Allison Winn Scotch (Read in November 2016). I read this one on my Kindle. It’s about a group of college friends who have been varying degrees of estranged for the past twenty years, but are reunited for a week (or a weekend) in their old college town after the death of the woman who was the glue that held them together even in college. I remember enjoying this book for what it was (a quick beach read), but don’t remember any of the characters’ names or much of the plot beyond the bare bones.
Trail of Broken Wings, Sejal Badani (Read in November 2016). I also read this one on my Kindle, and remember very little other than there were two sisters and an abusive father. It was sad and gripping, but I blew through it and now remember very little other than what I just said.
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick (Read in November 2016). Now this book I remember. I also read it on my Kindle, and I really had a hard time with it, which really bugged me at the time because I was so excited about it. And since the book was such a disappointment I have never gotten around to watching the show that is based on the book. The premise is that Germany and Japan won World War II and divided up the United States between them and it seemed like a great idea. I love speculative fiction but this one just didn’t do it for me; it just left too much out, almost like it was going to be the first in a series of novels that never came to be.
Burying the Honeysuckle Girls, Emily Carpenter (Read in December 2016). Another Kindle book. My recollection of this novel is also vague. I remember finding it entertaining and fast-paced, but not as well-written as other books I have read in the past. The main character has a family history of all the women she is related to going crazy at a certain age, like women do in the South, and she is rapidly approaching that age. There are plot twists and cliffhangers aplenty, definitely good for a weekend read, but if I’d written a real post about this one I think I would have ended up summarizing the plot more than I waxed philosophical about the writing or the hidden meanings in the events of the novel. Except that men in the South seem to hate women a lot of the time.
Our Endless Numbered Days, Claire Fuller (Read in March 2017). An Indiespensible book. Now this was a weird one. Girl is kidnapped by her survivalist father and taken to a cabin in the woods. She is told by her father that the world has ended, and that everyone is dead but them. They live in the woods for many years, and the girl (whose name is Peggy) meets a man in the woods. Or she hallucinates him. And then she escapes from the cabin and goes home. She may murder her father in the process of escaping. Bizarre but well-written and thought provoking. Peggy was definitely not a reliable narrator/point of view character. I can’t remember if it was first person or third person limited. The atrophied book blogger inside of me is very disappointed in herself.
How to Start a Fire, Lisa Lutz (Read in March 2017). Read on Kindle. This may have been the first book I read on Kindle that I bought for my Kindle because I couldn’t wait for it to come out in paperback and didn’t want to buy in hardcover. Of course I didn’t read it until long after it was available in paperback. My book buying rules are so messed up. Also I am pretty sure it was on sale for Kindle. I remember really enjoying this book and that it’s about a group of female friends who meet in college and then follows them into adulthood. I think one of the women is a drunk or addict and may at some point start setting fire to buildings, either on purpose or accidentally, but that may not be accurate. I love Lisa Lutz because of her series of mysteries about the Spellman family, and will gladly read anything she writes. This book definitely didn’t disappoint me, I just wish I could remember more about it.
Secondhand Souls, Christopher Moore (Read in March 2017). I really enjoyed this book but remember wishing I had reread A Dirty Job before diving into this one. Christopher Moore can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned, especially as long as he keeps putting out funny Sci-fi-fantasy novels that take place in San Francisco. Secondhand Souls continues the adventures of Death Merchant Charlie Asher (in Christopher Moore’s world there is more than one Grim Reaper) and his quest to save the world from…. Someone. I remember being so excited to read this book and then to write about it. And then all of a sudden it was 2019 and this is all I’ve got.
The Drafter and The Operator, Kim Harrison (Read in March – April 2017). This Kim Harrison series does not take place in the same world as The Hollows and that is unfortunate for it. While I enjoyed Harrison’s take on industrial espionage in the future, I kept missing Rachel, Ivy, Jenks, and the other denizens of The Hollows novels. Peri Reed, the protagonist of these novels, is a Drafter, which means (if memory serves) that she can turn back time (only by a few minutes I think) but won’t remember what happened, so she has a partner who is supposed to fill in the gaps for her. These novels ask the question: what happens if the partner isn’t always forthcoming with the truth? I’ll definitely read more books in this series as Harrison writes them, but maybe not with as much excitement as if she releases another Hollows novel.
A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life, Pat Conroy (Read in April 2017). This was an anthology of short works by Pat Conroy – essays and things mostly, no fiction (but what that he wrote was ever really fiction). It was released after his untimely death in March, 2016, and I wish I could tell you what I read in the pages of this collection, but I have no idea. But I know that when I read it I felt like I was at home.
The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty, Vendela Vida (Read in April 2017). An Indiespensible read. This was one of those books I read because I knew it would be good for me (and because I spent $39.95 on it), but I didn’t love it. I found the conceit of writing an entire novel in the second person very annoying. Because I don’t like being told what I would do. I would never do most of the things the protagonist in the book does, like take off for Morocco and engage in identity theft. But as her story unfolded I got used to the second person narration and kind of forgot about it. But it’s the first thing I remember when I think about this book and it still annoys me. I know it’s a good book because Bethany liked it, but I never liked those Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was a kid (I got too hung up on choosing the “right” path and it caused a large amount of stress) and this book reminded me of those.
It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis (Read in May 2017). This book got some attention back in early 2017, when Trump took over as the USA’s CEO, because it seemed like everything in it was going to come true. This book is speculative fiction at its finest and documents the rise to power of a dictator in 1930’s America. It was creepily well-done. It took me forever to read because it was pretty slow-paced, but it was eerie how democracy was whittled away at, so slowly that many people in the novel didn’t even realize it was happening. Definitely not a novel for the faint of heart—it takes work to get through this one.
Best Boy, Eli Gottlieb (Read in April 2017). An Indiespensible selection. The protagonist is, I believe, based on the author’s older brother, who was institutionalized as a young man because that’s what people did in the sixties with people with learning disabilities. I believe Todd Aaron has some form of Autism, though he seems pretty high functioning, and would, I’m sure, do just fine in the world these days. This book made me sad and angry, but I definitely think it’s worth reading.
An Untamed State, Roxane Gay (Read in June 2017). I am pretty sure Bethany and I made up a reading challenge and this was the first book in that reading challenge. We, as is traditional, didn’t finish the reading challenge. Our plan was to both read one book the same each month and then talk about it on the blog. That never happened. I had read a ton about this book before starting it, so was excited to get into it and then write about it. Oh well. I really enjoyed this novel about a Haitian woman who lives in Florida with her husband and young son. She goes home to Haiti and gets kidnapped and held for ransom, like happens all the time to the children of wealthy parents in Haiti. It was difficult to read at times because horrible things happened to Mireille during her captivity, but Roxane Gay is an amazing writer and I am looking forward to the day I can get back to her work.
Did You Ever Have a Family, Bill Clegg (Read in June 2017). Another Indiespensible pick. In this book, the protagonist’s entire family is killed in a gas explosion the night before/the morning of her daughter’s wedding. So she does what any sensible woman would do—she picks up what’s left of her life in Connecticut and moves to a hotel on the Oregon coast. The novel goes back and forth in time a bit, and tells the stories of the protagonist, June, and various other people both in her new family in Oregon and in the community she leaves. I really loved this book, though it was at times like a knife to the chest.
Glass Predator, Craig Schaefer (Read in June 2017). Kindle book. This is a sequel to Harmony Black and Red Knight Falling, which in case you don’t remember is an urban fantasy series that I got introduced to because of Kindle Unlimited. I’m not a member of Kindle Unlimited anymore but I did buy the sequel to this book when it was released a few months ago (editor note – this book was released in October 2017 and I bought it in November 2017. A few months ago, indeed.), which I think means that I like this series. I don’t specifically remember the events of Glass Predator but I think it was a good addition to the series.
Welcome back! Beautiful blog and I just followed you