Showing posts with label curtis sittenfeld. Show all posts
Showing posts with label curtis sittenfeld. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

December Minis: A Library, A Bazaar, and Earthquakes

Yup, it's that time again.  More mini-reviews!  I am enjoying this format for the time being, and I hope you all are too.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Crown, 2015
borrowed from the library

While this book doesn't seem to be super widely-known, several bloggers that I love and respect were singing its praises, so I had to check it out.  That said, I was a little nervous, because many reviews mentioned "magical realism" and "fantasy", two genres with which I haven't had much luck.  But, I gave it a go.

Quick synopsis: Carolyn and a dozen other children were "adopted" long ago by the mysterious Father.  Each child was taught one category of Father's knowledge over the years.  Now, it's 20 years later, and Father has disappeared.  Carolyn & co now have to fight to see who has the power (and the knowledge) to take Father's place.

You guys, THIS BOOK IS AMAZING.  Yup, it's full of fantasy and magical realism and things you would never believe in real life, but Hawkins wrote it so well that it DOES NOT MATTER.  It is horrifying and hilarious and mysterious at the same time.  The story unravels in such a way that there is always another piece of information you need, that you can't put down the book for, and as such you will indeed never put down the freaking book.  Full disclosure: I did not love the ending (it was less explosive than the rest of the novel, and as such felt unfitting), but I still recommend it.  Highly.  (As long as you can take some gore.  A lot of gore, actually.)

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
Scribner, 2015
borrowed from the library

It's been a while since I ran out and read the latest King release, but I knew that a new collection of his short stories was a good excuse to do it.  My love of SK began with his short stories.  Where his novels, while often excellent, can enter the territory of being overly verbose, his short stories are more concise, hitting readers hard and fast right between the eyes.

This collection is no exception.  While not every story worked for me ("The Bone Church" was one--more of a poem, and an odd one at that), I was wow'ed by the majority of them.  I know many people hear Stephen King and immediately think horror, but that is not the overarching theme here.  (Though some are certainly horrific..."Mile 81" comes to mind immediately. Avoid if you're queasy, or if you dislike children in distress.)  Instead, I'd say there is a general sense of unease in each of these stories.  Questions of morality, of good conscience, of what it means to be just.  You are left feeling disturbed, rather than scared.  And if the stories aren't enough, the book is made even more amazing by the notes King has left before the start of each one, giving you the background on what inspired it and how he wrote it.  Is there anything better than a Stephen King introduction?  And now you get 21 of them.  Winner winner, chicken dinner.  A great read for die-hard King fans and newbie SK followers alike.

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
Random House, 2013
borrowed from the library
The latest pick for my MOMS Club book club.  Discussion is this Sunday, and I think it's fair to say there'll be a lot to discuss!  Basic premise: Kate and Vi are twins who were born with psychic abilities.  As they get older, Kate distances herself from these "senses", while Vi embraces and hones them over time.  Now in their 30's and living in St. Louis, Vi predicts very publicly that a disastrous earthquake will soon hit the city, throwing Vi, and Kate, into the spotlight.  Kate is forced to reconsider her own abilities, as well as her roles as sister, daughter, wife, and mother.

I am a Sittenfeld fan (Prep and American Wife are truly excellent reads, if you haven't gotten to them already).  That said, the novel started out very slowly for me, and I felt like the narrative was wordy and jumpy for no discernible reason.  Plus, I found Kate to be positively grating.  She's weak, whiny, impulsive, dispassionate, and seems to be just going through the motions in what boils down to a very comfortable life.  (It could also be that I hate the picture she portrays of stay-at-home moms.  She makes us look ridiculous.)

However, Kate finally does something so outrageously stupid that it makes the last quarter of the novel completely un-put-down-able.  I ATE IT UP.  So I'm not sure if I should love this book because I was so entirely enraptured by it for the second half, or if I should dislike it because the protagonist is godawful and it's her ridiculous godawful mistakes that make the second half of the book worth reading.  I don't know.  I guess I need to discuss that at book club.  :)

What did you read so far this month?

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Post-Thanksgiving "What Are You Reading?"

Howdy, reader friends!  I hope all my American readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We had a phenomenal time celebrating with my crazy family in Connecticut.  There was much food, and football, and more food, and wine, and all that good stuff.  With the holiday, and all the travel it involved (7+ hours each way with a 4- and 1-year-old, FUN!), plus a terrible stomach bug I endured the week before, blogging fell a bit by the wayside.  However, I am back in the saddle with a quick reading update.

What am I reading now?  That would be The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King's latest release.  It's a short story collection, and I have long been a fan of SK short stories.  I'm about 2/3 done at this point, and still mulling over what I think of the collection as a whole.  Though there are some common themes, each story is so different and elicits such a varied range of reactions from me that it's hard to review!  But I'll have my thoughts posted here soon enough.

Up next?  I'll be tackling Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld, the next book chosen for my MOMS Club book club.  The summary sounds intriguing and I've enjoyed many of Sittenfeld's other novels, so I have high hopes here.

Okay, back to my short stories!  What are you reading this week?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Nonfiction November: Fiction/Nonfiction Duos!

It's week 2 of Nonfiction November!

This week's host is Leslie over at Regular Rumination, so please stop by!  Here's the prompt for the week:

For the second week of Nonfiction November, we are discussing Book Pairings. The original intention of this week’s theme was put together a fiction book and a nonfiction book that go well together. If you decide to pair two nonfiction books together, that works too! It could be two (or more!) books you’ve read, one book you’ve read and one you have not, or two books that you’ve added to your TBR and want to read that you think will complement and inform each other.

What a fun topic!  I thought it would be hard to come up with many appropriate pairings, but instead I ended up with quite the list!:

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, and The Martian by Andy Weir

I read the Roach book after The Martian, and I found myself constantly thinking about the fiction novel while I was reading about how the real-life astronauts prepare for space.  They compliment each other perfectly!

The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower, and American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Real-life descriptions of life in the White House, vs. a fictional story about a modern day First Lady (though it is very obviously based upon Laura Bush).

Expecting Better by Emily Oster, and A Bump in the Road by Maureen Lipinski

A nonfiction book with a unique twist on pregnancy do's and don'ts, and a funny fiction novel about a woman's unexpected first pregnancy (and all the hazards that go along with it).  Pregnancy requires a sense of humor, that's for sure!

My Life by Bill Clinton, and Primary Colors by Anonymous/Joe Klein

I patted myself on the back for this one.  That's just funny, y'all.

Marley & Me by John Grogan, and The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Both of these are stories about dogs that made me cry big baby tears.  One is true and one is not.  Both are amazing!

Night by Elie Wiesel, and The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Or, substitute the Picoult novel for any heart-wrenching fictional depiction of life in the concentration camps.  Some heavy reading material here.

What are some fiction and nonfiction marriages that you'd like to put together?
 
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