Saturday, August 20, 2011

What I've Been Reading

I noticed a couple of people expressed interest in what I've been reading. I think I'll try to share a list somewhat regularly here (since I've failed to keep up with Goodreads or similar) and create a record for myself as well.

A few notes about how I pick books:

* I read for entertainment/escapism. Period. I spent many long years in school reading what I was required to, and at this point reading is a luxury for me, pure and simple. So yes, some of it is "crap." But I like it.

* I am completely and utterly addicted to Amazon. I have a Kindle, and use the app to read books on my phone. Most of the time, I am reading one paper book and one digital book simultaneously (concurrently?) I take advantage of their recommended reads and they are very often spot on.

* I love the option of always having my book with me (on my phone) but more than that, I love the option to download the first chapter before buying. I can pretty much always tell if I am going to like a book within that sample so I rarely start something I don't want to finish. However, I do stop reading a book I am not enjoying - life is too short to struggle through something! I'll list at the bottom which titles I've tried and not liked.

* If I don't like the look of the cover, I probably won't read it. Same goes if I pick up a book in the bookstore and I don't like the way it feels.

* I read a LOT of books and so cost factors into what I buy to read. I do go to the library, but am often after new releases that are never available and I'm too impatient to wait. I buy a lot of used books on Amazon Marketplace and have tried to be better about waiting for the prices of newly published books to come down before I buy them.

Enough rambling, here's my recent list:

My Summer of Southern Discomfort by Stephanie Gayle - I snagged this on the clearance rack at Barnes & Noble and it was...just ok. Sort of some interesting cultural details about the South, but who knows how true to life the depictions were. C+

Deep Down True by Juliette Fay - I really liked this book. It was roughly about a woman struggling to figure out how to co-parent and move on with her life following a divorce. There was a side plot involving teenage bulimia, but it was done in a really interesting way and not glorified. Kind of terrifying to think about. A-

Mrs Perfect by Jane Porter - This was on the fluffier side but I enjoyed it. It's interesting at this point to read about a woman re-entering the workforce (by necessity rather than choice) after being home with kids for a long time. B

Men from the Boys by Tony Parsons - This is the third in a series by a British journalist/author that Chris and I have both read. I don't want to say too much since he has yet to read it, but I found it very interesting what the author chose to do with his characters over the long time span between books. C

The English American by Alison Larkin - I just finished this book and it was intriguing. It's about a late-20s woman who was born in America and adopted by a British family. She decides to find her birth parents and the story is about the reunions and how they affect her. Particularly interesting as it does some comparing/contrasting of British and American culture. Also loosely based on the author's own experiences. A

The Confession by John Grisham - basically a typical JG pageturner, with a seriously creepy Bad Guy. I was disappointed in the way it turned out but enjoyed the read. B+

The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir by Patricia Harman - I am inexplicably drawn to midwife's memoirs, considering I am about as disinterested in having my birth attended by a midwife as is possible. A nice mix of birth stories and some medical stuff? I don't know, but I enjoyed this. A-

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand - I love Elin Hilderbrand. Awesome beach reads, and always take place on Nantucket which I find strangely more interesting than West Coast beach retreats. A

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken - This is a memoir written by a woman who loses her first child in the ninth month of pregnancy, while living in France. To be 100% honest...I don't remember a lot about it. I remember that I enjoyed it, but it was sad and perhaps I didn't feel the need to hold onto someone else's grief. Anyway, it's on sale at Amazon for $4.94 :) B+

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner - a kind of average story about a politician's wife who learns publicly of her husband's infidelity. The more interesting part of the plot centered about the main character and her two adult daughters who are all experiencing challenges in their lives and reconnect with each other as they work through them. B-

Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis - I absolutely loved this book. The main character is a formerly overweight woman who loses a lot of weight and subsequently loses her husband. She decides to start a business selling healthy convenience foods for people. For someone who isn't a big eater (me), I love books about foodies and food and this was no exception. A

Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt - a memoir written by a man whose 38-year-old wife dies suddenly of a heart condition. He and his wife move into her house to help care for their three young grandchildren. It's a weirdly uplifting story, despite the underlying tragedy. A

One Day by David Nicholls - This has just been made into a movie. A movie which I will not see. I intensely disliked this book. I actually really enjoyed the first quarter or so, but then just hated it more and more. All the characters made terrible choices and, frankly, were kind of unlikeable. C--

The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum - This was a fascinating book about an adult woman whose fraternal twin brother is mentally ill and is a stormchaser (basically people who...wait for it...track and chase major storms. To watch them, I guess). She is concerned that he will make bad choices in his mental state and so ends up chasing after him as he chases storms. There were some truly terrifying descriptions of storms, made more so by the fact it takes place pretty much in my new hometown. Well, not quite...the main character lives in St. Paul and the storms are all further out from the city, but still. Close enough! B+

This Body of Death by Elizabeth George - This was the most recent in a British mystery series I've been reading since I was a teenager. My mom reads them too, and she had actually already purchased this one when I told her that, under no circumstances, did she want to read it. The plot loosely follows an absolutely horrific crime against a toddler that actually happened in England when I lived there and the book was so, so hard to read. Brilliantly written, as Ms. George's books always are, so it gets an A-grade despite how much I didn't enjoy it (and my mom totally listened and got rid of the book without reading it). A

Tuscan Holiday by Holly Chamberlin - a nice story of an adult mother-and-daughter pair who take a trip to Tuscany and repair a shaky relationship. I like it because the daughter is kind of a brat to start with but she learns a lot from her mom and turns into a much nicer person. B+

Books I started and didn't finish:

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
Daniel Isn't Talking by Marti Leimbach
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Next up: my To Read list...


Mary W. said...

So glad you posted this list. Always looking for new good ones. Books are the best places to escape, even if they are a bit fluffy. It's also good to know that someone else judges books by their cover:) Have you read I Capture the Castle? Just read it again and love it.

Heather said...

I just started the Cookbook Collector- I'll let you know what I think when I finish it up!

And I'm so disappointed to hear that about One Day- I have it on hold at the library. Blah.