Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Reading Update: July 22 -- August 11

Chris Adrian -- The Children's Hospital

Hmm. Don't know quite what to say about this one. I really enjoyed parts of it, and even though it's over 600 pages long, I never once felt like I was ready to bail on reading it. (Rare for me in a book of that length). However, Adrian desperately needs a better editor, if you ask me. This novel could literally have been 200 pages shorter. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that cutting this book way back could have taken it, for me anyway, from a merely good novel, to a really great one. There was just so much here that felt like the author was being allowed to be overly self-indulgent. So much unnecessary verbiage to muck up the lovely bits. Ugh.

David Benniof -- The City of Thieves

I really enjoyed the main story of this book, but I was thoroughly irritated by the "frame" bit at the beginning. Completely and totally unnecessary. Especially since the author doesn't even come back to it at the end. Basically, the only purpose for it being there is to allow the author to finish the book with a cutesy little surprise ending. SO not essential to the book. I wish that Benniof would have just trusted his amazing writing ability and let the story stand on its own.

Jeanne Birdsall -- The Penderwicks

Cute kids chapter book, of the variety that I would have adored as a kid, if it had been out then. It reminded me quite a bit of the Narnia books, in terms of the sibling relationships in the story, but it's not a fantasy book.

Hillary Jordan -- Mudbound

Quite lovely, really, in a melancholy, grey-skies and rainy days kind of way. The scene at the beginning of the book with the two brothers burying their racist ass of a dead father drew me in immediately and I was hooked. And the ending is quite wonderful, too. Jordan does the best job of any author I've read, I think, of recognizing our very human desire for a happy ending, even while she is simultaneously aware of the reality -- happy endings aren't always a part of real life, even when they're really, really deserved. Highly recommended.

Junot Diaz -- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Tried and failed. I just don't get the hype. I read about 20 pages and was so freakin' irritated with the postmodern pretensions that I couldn't take it anymore. Mr. Diaz, please repeat after me: "Footnotes do not belong in fiction. Footnotes do not belong in fiction. Footnotes do not belong in fiction. Not even if they're trying to be wryly self-aware and funny." Blech!

Laura Kasischke -- The Life Before Her Eyes
Another FAIL. This one came off the recommended shelf at my local indie bookstore, Copperfield's, where they have never before steered me wrong. However, I found the main character of this book so very smug and self-congratulatory that I wanted to reach right into the pages and smack the beejezus out of her. Too bad, too, as the first few pages are quite lovely and haunting.

Also: Dozens and dozens of very easy chapter books, for work. Seriously. Pretty much every "first chapter book" out there, I've read it! My current Excel grid of notes on books I've read for this project is hovering at 119. Urgh. So you can understand, perhaps, why most of my at-home reading of late has consisted of craft books and travel magazines that can be read in 5-minute bites.

(I have been trying to post this stupid reading update for literally three+ weeks now. I think the inevitable summer lethargy has set in or something)

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