So, quickly here, in no particular order:
1. Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead: About a ballet dancer, her son, her husband, and her former lover. I didn’t really like any of the characters (except possibly one, and things don’t turn out so well for him). Somehow, though, the author kept me interested in them, at least until about 2/3 of the way through. Just as I was losing interest, a surprise twist at the end hooked me back in. I like the way the author describes certain experiences and relationships in one generation being echoed in the next. Worth reading.
2. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett: I kept hearing about this author. The descriptions of her novels didn’t draw me in, but I started one anyway, and I’m glad I did. A captivating tale about–I think–the power of beauty through music. One Goodreads reviewer remarked the book could have been titled, The Lighter Side of Stockholm Syndrome. This is true.
3. Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl: On its jacket, this book is billed as “a book as frothy and fizzy and light as a champagne cocktail- think I Capture the Castle meets Pride and Prejudice!” This drives me nuts because Pride and Prejudice is not frothy, frizzy, or light. Neither is I Capture the Castle. But, this book is pretty similar to Georgette Heyer’s regency romances, which are sort of Jane Austen lite. This book is sort of Georgette Heyer lite. I liked it.
4. Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke: This is such a charming picture book. The illustrations are detailed and lively. I can’t wait to give my girls the (autographed!) copy I bought for them for Christmas.
5. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Marie Semple: I already wrote a little bit about this slightly wacky, chick-lit style whodunit here. I’ve since had one more thought about why I like this book: one character is a stereotypical hypocritical, backstabbing, judgmental, proselytizing “Christian.” The book even mentions that her middle name is “Faith.” So, you expect her to be the bad guy throughout the book. I read a theater review by Terry Teachout recently, which hits the nail on the head:
Christianity is the great blind spot of American theater [and, I would posit, most modern literature]. Most Americans believe in the resurrection of Jesus and the existence of heaven and hell–but in most American plays, these beliefs are treated either as proofs of invincible ignorance or as signs of blackhearted villainy.
The Christian character has a change of heart and becomes a good person later in the book. It’s after she goes through a 12-step program, so maybe she left Christianity in favor of “being spiritual” and “calling on a higher power.” Maybe. But. The book doesn’t specify. Anyway, it was nice to see a book written from a secular perspective have a card-carrying Christian this is neither invincibly ignorant nor a black-hearted villain.
Also read recently (but not favorites):
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham: There’s nothing worthwhile about reading this book except that Dunham is a canary in our cultural coalmine. As her t.v. character put it, “I think I may be the voice of my generation. . . Or at least, a voice of a generation.” She may in fact be the voice of her generation, and if so, we’re in deep sh*t. Dude.
Mindless Eating:Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink: Some interesting studies, but the tips the author gives aren’t especially original. I’m looking for a way to lose weight with no exercise of willpower whatsoever. Can’t someone help a girl out? Somebody??