(This month I chose to write my little book blurbs as I was reading so that my impressions were fresh. It seemed to work well for me, so I may stick with that!)
1. The Engagements, J. Courtney Sullivan - This novel tells the story of multiple couples from different time periods and in different places in their relationships as connected with the story of the ad woman who created the famous "Diamonds Are Forever" slogan. For SURE, I saw the influence of Mad Men....and I don't even watch that show! It was a fun book, and I have to say that I loved the way that Sullivan drew the stories together. Honestly, though, I didn't really get emotionally invested in many of the characters. All in all, it was a light read....and one I'm glad I borrowed rather than bought. (Found it as a recommendation through multiple sources - including BOTNS)
2. The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe - Schwalbe and his mother spent the last two years of her life reading and discussing books together as she went through treatment for pancreatic cancer. This beautiful book is both record of that time as well as a phenomenal memorial to a woman who was simply amazing. Bonus...there is an extensive index in the back that lists all of the books, plays, poetry, etc. that is discussed in the book. That could keep me busy for a very long time....
3. Self-Inflicted Wounds, Aisha Tyler - I'm a huge fan of Tylers, and I absolutely love her podcast - which I find to be hilarious, inspirational, heartwarming and fun. Tyler wrote the book as an extension of a section of her podcast in which she has her guests share stories of their own self-inflicted wounds. Yes, those stories are usually laugh out loud funny - but they also humanize her guests and prove to the audience that we all do stupid things sometimes. I really thought I would love the book just as much. (Do you feel the 'but' coming?) Problem is, Tyler writes in the exact same style that she speaks....and I found that tedious and difficult to follow. What is entertaining in an audio style doesn't necessarily translate to the written page. I only made it through a couple of stories before I returned it to the library.
4. The Shift Omnibus, Hugh Howey - Howey pulled off something rather spectacular in the publication of his innovative Wool Omnibus. (I encourage you to google him and read about it. He's for sure the sort of artist who just wants to create and share his work.) The Shift Omnibus covers the second three tales (novellas?) in the series, taking us back to the creation of the silos and then bringing us up to the point where Wool left off. Pretty cool stuff. It says something, I think, that Howey's ideas come across as completely fresh and original. Occasionally he gets a bit wordy and lets stylistic drama take over, but he is a great storyteller and I cannot put his books down once I get started.
5. The Cuckoo's Calling, J.K. Rowling - OK, clearly I read it because of the crazy news stories this summer about Rowling's attempt to write a novel under a pseudonym. For the record, I totally believe that she had no intent to reveal the truth because she honestly wanted her work to stand on its own without her name behind it. I'm not ordinarily a mystery fan, though, so perhaps that's why this book didn't make much of an impression. I certainly enjoyed it...and it was a nice break from the extreme darkness of the Scandinavian mysteries I've read....but I have to agree with the review I read that essentially said, 'meh.' Another one I'm glad I borrowed rather than bought.
6. The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri - I picked up The Namesake from the iBooks sale page, having heard good things about Lahiri. It turned out to be a portrait of a Bengali family: the parents having moved to the US from India for the father's education and job opportunities and their American born children who struggle with their status in between the two cultures. There really wasn't much in the way of plot, and in many ways the family portrayed had a very quiet and normal life. Lahiri is a good enough writer, though, to make the reader care deeply about the everyday existence of her characters. It's a brilliant character study.
7. Life After Life, Kate Atkinson - SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!!! I stayed up way too late finishing it, and then couldn't sleep because I was trying to figure out the very last few chapters! Here's the blurb from Atkinson's official website, which I share because it's both easier than trying to explain it myself and gives less away than many of the online tidbits. I admit, I'm a total sucker for stories which hinge on the what-ifs of tiny moments in life. (The 1998 Gwenyth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors is a favorite of mine.) I loved, LOVED this book....and will have to purchase a copy ASAP. (Checked it out in ebook format from the library.) I THOUGHT I knew what was going on, but the last couple of chapters threw me. Then I got to thinking about the order of some of Ursula's lives, and I started to question.... Darn it! Where's a good book group when you need one! (After you read the book, check out this article. I think Atkinson just may be my new favorite author, and I feel a need to track down all of her other books right away.)
8. Naamah's Blessing, Jacqueline Carey - Yeah, so I started reading this book eons ago, shortly after it was published (2011 - Yikes!) and oddly enough I didn't finish it. I love Carey's Terre D'Ange books, which are fun epics roughly based on European history. Naamah's Blessing is the final book in the third Terre D'Ange trilogy, and it was absolutely a satisfying end. I'm pretty sure I was distracted from it at a point in the narrative that felt like a natural break in the story. Despite the whacky time lag, I didn't need to go back and reread the first part of the book.
9. Dust, Hugh Howey - So hurray! When I finished Shift I double checked my preorder of Dust and found out that it was due out a week later! Super-cool as these books really do need to be read in back to back order so that things don't slip in the memory. (ahem...yeah, I had to go back to Wool and review a bit....) LOVE the ending. LOVE the series. Can't wait to find out what Howey does next!
10. Villette, Charlotte Bronte: Not my favorite Bronte. I should like it...but I didn't. True, Bronte's characters are psychologically fascinating, and I do love the very clear pictures she draws of them. I just didn't enjoy the plot, and found the book to be rather meh as a whole. (Which I gather is a common perception.) Don't mind saying that after a certain point I skimmed it.
11. The Art of Racing In the Rain, Garth Stein - So I've seen this book around for years, and had thumbed through a time or two. I don't know if I ever would have bought it, though, had it not been for the simple fact that it was on iBooks' sale page for just a couple of bucks. Wow. I read it in a single afternoon, sobbed through much of it, and now am completely in love with Stein. While I am a dog person, I am also the sort of dog person who generally hates dog books. (part of why I'd avoided this one for so long) This is so not a "dog book" for all that it's narrated by a dog. I found much wisdom in the 'pages' and much to contemplate on life and relationships.
12. The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman - Another treasure recommended by BOTNS and found on iBooks sale page! I'd had a few friends recommend this to me as well, and it was absolutely lovely. It's the story of a childless couple who live on an isolated island, serving as the lighthouse keepers. One day a boat washes up on shore with a baby in it....and from there it goes. It's an absolutely heartbreaking book in so many ways that will leave you devastated in some way for every single person who's touched by the events. It's also a book that ends as it should end.