What I’m Reading: December

While November was full of nonfiction books for me, I’m looking forward to an entertaining (fiction filled) December. I had been holding off on getting new Book of the Month books until I read the two I had, but I was eager to get two selections this month! So I’m thinking of doing a bit of a Book of the Month Readathon this month with titles I’m really excited about —

Circe by Madeline Miller

Image result for circe madeline miller

I got this from Book of the Month when I got The Silence of the Girls. Apparently I was feeling the Greek Mythology Retelling genre that seems to have sprung up recently!

Calypso by David Sedaris

Image result for calypso david sedaris

I got this one back in July I think! I was so excited to see it as a selection and immediately added it to my box. David Sedaris is a favorite author of mine, I find all of this work absolutely hilarious and am excited for this new collection, which I hear is a little more serious than his others.

Severance by Ling Ma

Image result for severance ling ma

This one was a December pick for Book of the Month, but not a recent release. When they took this strategy last year, I ended up with Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been seeing Severance around #bookstagram and decided to give it a go despite not always totally loving the distopian thing. I hear great things about this one!

For Better or Worse by Margot Hunt

Image result for for better or worse margot hunt

This was a November selection for Book of the Month that I passed up on mostly because I hadn’t heard anything about it and wanted to read a few reviews first. The reviews were great and now I’m excited to add it to my library, and a marital thriller sounds like an entertaining way to end the year!

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you’re planning to read next month!

Book Review: Our Homesick Songs

Author: Emma Hooper
Published: August 14, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
FLW Rating: 2/5

This book. I wanted to love it so badly (do I start all not great reviews this way?), but this is a classic case of the prose getting in the way of the story for me. The vagueness of the story and the uniqueness of the prose, led me to feel confused about what I was reading and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s to feel confused about a book. I can handle a little mystery but when I’m 80% through the book and still don’t totally know what I’m reading, I get a little upset.

Our Homesick Songs is about a family in a Canadian fishing village, but there’s one problem: there are no fish in the village. While the Connor parents go off to find an income in other places, their children are left to fend for themselves and cope in their own ways.

IMG_20181014_102705_425.jpg

Therein, in that synopsis, lies the problem. It’s a little too vauge – it’s not set in a specific time or a place, so the whole thing feels very anecdotal. While I was writing the synopsis I couldn’t stop thinking to myself “is it about a family in a fishing village with no fish?” Somehow it all just felt so damn metaphorical. Is it about all North American towns that rely on one source of industry? Literally no idea.

I find it really hard to review this book, because despite reading 90% of it (I know I gave up at a weird time), I don’t feel like I grasped what happened. It confused me, it frustrated me, I felt like I wanted to empathize with these people but I just couldn’t even tell what was real and what wasn’t.

Maybe the problem is that I’m reading too far in to it, or maybe I wanted more action and wasn’t quite in the mood for a character driven novel, or maybe, just maybe, I was experiencing a book hangover from Where the Crawdads Sing and I just couldn’t get in to any book that came next. Whatever it was, this one didn’t work for me.

Have you read this book? Let me know what you thought! (Thoughts that don’t agree with me are also welcome!)

 

Book Review: My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Author: Otessa Moshfegh
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pub Date: July 10, 2018
FLW Rating: 3/5

You guys, I’m sorry. I’m sorry to my bank account since I bought this book. I’m sorry to all the lovers of this book out here… I didn’t love it. I wanted to! But I found it repetitive and for a book so original, surprisingly un-original.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation is the story of a very depressed millenial. By tricking her therapist in to prescribing her a series of sleep medications, she resolves to take a year off from working and normal life and sleep. The story comes from her life in the in between and the personal relationships she chooses to engage in or push away. Grab a front seat to the drama that is a year of life through the veil of a sleep medication cocktail.

I think my biggest issue with the book was that it didn’t meet any of my expectations — and not to any fault of the author, but in general I thought the book was about a burnt out millenial (which is comical), but instead the narrator was incredibly depressed form the death of both of her parents in quick secession. That’s not funny. I also read that the year of rest and relaxation it was assisted by her psychologist, but really she just abused the incompetence of the therapist she found online.. which is kind of funny, but also not funny.

Overall, I don’t know what I expected because honestly I thought she was going to sleep for a year (spoiler she doesn’t and you hear about her life in the times that she’s awake!), but the plot did nothing for me. and that ending. WHAT?! I needed more.

Call me old, maybe I am (I’m 29), but I wasn’t really feeling the jokes that were being made, and so this book didn’t land with me.

Have you read this? Let me know what you thought!

Nevertheless She Persisted: Stories of Strong Young Women

This week I read/listened to Where The Crawdad’s Sing — the hottest book of the moment (it was already a hot book of the moment and then Reese choose it as her September Book Club selection). I absolutely loved this story, and while it’s very unique, it is also reminiscent of two of my other most favorite books –  All The Ugly and Wonderful Things and The Great Alone. Even saying them out loud makes me want to hug the books close to my heart!

So since last week, I shared some books that reflect on the more negative sides of society, today I wanted to share some characters that left me full of hope!

For any who may not be familiar with these books, I’ll give you a quick synopsis.

All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood is the story of Wavy, the daughter of a drug dealer, who is growing up essentially without parents, or at least without any parents of influence over her life and well being. She develops a relationship with an older man, Kellen, who is both mixed up in the drug business and a shining light in Wavy’s life. It’s a story of Wavy acting well above her years, and fighting for herself even though society and logic try to keep her away from Kellen.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is the story of Leni, a spunky young girl with a dad who’s a Vietnam war POW, struggling to fit in in regular society– with a dangerous and violent side to his personality. Given the opportunity to move to a small town in Alaska, Leni’s family seizes the opportunity, but so much of the burden is left on Leni’s shoulders to prepare the family for winter when the family can’t do it themselves.

Where the Crawdad Sings by Delia Owen is the story of Kya, a young girl left to fend for herself after both of her parents have abandoned her for another life. Uneducated and left to starve, Kya fights for herself using her wit and unwillingness to fail. This book has the added element of a murder of someone in the town where Kya grew up — a boy who was in Kya’s class for the one day that she went to school — but this story is primarily the story of Kya’s strength in getting through her misfortune.

Wavy. Leni. Kya.

What you’re getting in these book isn’t just a young strong female — each of these books shows you a side of life you wouldn’t otherwise see, paired with beautiful writing, wonderfully crafted to describe the scenery so perfectly, a few guardian angels (in various forms — because though these girls are strong, we all get by with a little help from our friends), and of course the strength of the young female protagonist.

So I just wanted to share that – This week in particular, reading about the strength of young women with zero privilege whatsoever, is pulling on my heartstrings and bringing me back to all the strong young female protagonists I’ve loved before.

Book Review: Autumn

First things first: I’m currently participating in the Unread Shelf Project 2018, hosted by Whitney at @theunreadshelf. This post reflects on the September Challenge, but you can look back at all the posts here


IMG_20180923_074934_017

I’m going to keep this review short and sweet – which is what this book was to me. Autumn can be described in so many ways — artistic, poetic, beautiful, and funny to name a few — but to me the dominating tone was sweet. The humor was sweet, the Daniel’s daydreams were sweet, and Elisabeth’s memories were sweet.

Autumn is the story of Elisabeth and Daniel – two friends, two generations apart. The story is told as Daniel lies in a hospital bed near the end of his life, and Elisabeth is there to be with him. Through glimpses in to different stages of their pasts and presents, Autumn shows us that age doesn’t matter in friendship. 

I hope that a review this short doesn’t give the impression that this books lacks substance, but I just felt like this book emoted more a feeling than story. So rather than piece together or pick apart the narrative, I just want to say that this book will warm your soul like a giant cup of hot apple cider, and make you smile like an apple cider donut. Soak this book up as you soak up the season, before it’s time to pick up Winter!

SDFOB: Women Writing Fiction

And Finally – Women Writing Fiction

This seminar was by far the one I was most looking forward to! I read a lot of fiction written by women and I love it. Going in to the seminar, my anticipated “headliner” was Brit Bennet, author of The Mothers, that I read a few years ago when it was chosen as a Book of the Month Choice. It turns out she grew up right here in Oceanside!

However, I was definitely quick to judge when I predicted she would be the most impressive woman on this panel – the other two women blew me away and I want to share the author love for each of them!

T. Greenwood

Most Recent Novel: Rust & Stardust

Tammy (what T stands for — I had the hardest time finding her on Goodreads after the festival because she doesn’t go by Tammy!) was such a beautiful, artistic, creative, and passionate soul. I was so impressed by so many things about her, but first and foremost that she has published TWELVE novels!

I really just enjoyed her energy and her ability to give the uncomfortable answer. On the topic of “women’s fiction” where others didn’t like the title but didn’t want to start a war, she was so ready to say “I have a serious problem with it!” I loved that because I totally agree and never classify a novel as women’s fiction.

I also enjoyed hearing how she funded her work – she has had every job in the book from waitress, to retail, to coffee barista! Now she’s able to write her novels, teach writing at a local university, and mentor/ freelance edit for other authors.

It was such a pleasure to “meet” Tammy, and I’m looking forward to reading some of her twelve novels!

Michelle Gable

Most Recent Novel: The Summer I Met Jack

Michelle Gable was another author I am surprised I hadn’t heard of – her energy was contagious and I found myself wanting to be her best friend.

Some of the highlights of her answers include that she always sets her books in beautiful places so she can visit — her first book is titled A Paris Apartment — and she didn’t publish her first book until she was 40 years old (this blew me away because Michelle is so gorgeous and full of young energy. Not that there’s anything wrong with being over 40, but I never would have guessed her age!)

To fund her writing process (and life in general) Michelle worked for almost 20 years in finance. Her advice is that the best way to be a writer is to be busy — she said she’s actually finding is equally as hard to find time to write when she’s doing it full time as when she only had an hour a day but she was committed to that hour a day. As an engineer, I totally feel this sentiment!

The most passionate answer Michelle gave is that it’s easy to write strong women because she is one and she is surrounded by many. Just be listening to her speak you knew this was true – she spoke with so much passion, excitement, and confidence and I loved it!

And in terms of supporting others and giving back,  Michelle shared that she is an avid readers and reviews all the books she reads on Goodreads. She also pre-orders hardcover versions of debut authors. These are some excellent peeks in to how the industry works and some of the best ways to support authors, so I think we should all take a page out of Michelle’s book – figuratively of course.

Brit Bennet

Most Recent Novel: The Mothers

Brit was truly unique on this panel — she was by far the youngest, the only one to not have a children (yet), the only one to only have one book published so far, the only one to be able to write full time since publishing her first book, and the only one to have an absolute sensation of a debut.

Despite all of those comparisons, Brit showed wisdom beyond her years with each of her answers. In each round of questions, she would answer last and start by saying, “Yeah, what they said,” but then continue to blow me away with some of her answers. As I’m writing this in Portugal without my notebook, I can’t remember her exact words, but it’s important to know that Brit is wise, elequent, and so impressive in her modest confidence.

What I didn’t know when I read the Mothers was that she wrote that novel in graduate school!!! She had it picked up by a publisher (not to mention Book of the Month!) and therefore was able to go in her career as a full time author — a rarity in this industry!

While she only has one book out right now, I can’t wait to read what she writes next.

Final Thoughts

This panel did a few things for me — first and foremost, it inspired me to write a book (TBD if I’ll ever do it, but I would love to! More on that in a later post, probably)

Some of the common themes were that it’s hard to be a writer. Each of the author’s who have published more than one book shared that they’ve written way more books than they’ve had published. Brit Bennett is truly the exception here! They also shared that book tours are hard on the mind and the body (BB included here). Brit said even touring in her twenties was hard – she was so excited to visit friends in cities that she’d visit on her tour, but soon realized how exhausted she was and how much she just wanted to sleep when she arrived in a new city. I’ve heard others (Backman) speak about this, and even insist that his family join him on his most recent book tour, but he presented it more in the context of anxiety. Hearing from these women showed me that it’s really just hard to be an author and be on tour — it’s not the glamorous life we (well at least I) dream of.

Speaking of glamorous lives, each woman on the panel said that they watch and love Younger (my latest Hulu binge-watching show!) Their comments were that they’ve never seen publishers who are so attractive, so wealthy, or have such nice offices, but that they absolutely love watching it. Me too!!

Overall, this panel was my favorite of the day (clearly), and was both so inspiring and so informative.  I love knowing that each of the authors live (or grew up) in San Diego and intend to read their books and continue to support my local authors.

Have you read books by these three? Do you know which authors live in your city?