Quite an eclectic month!
Books I read:
On the downside, my quest to read my own books crashed and burned in a fiery conflagration: Only one of 13 reads was culled from my pre-2016 library. That’s far short of the 50-50 split I’d intended. Oh well. There’s always November and December. (Hmmm, I seem to be running out of months…)
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (e-book from the library)
I loved this novel. It was like being inside a dream, fittingly: The story revolves around a woman’s memories of growing up in Brooklyn. The combination of fragmented, sensory narrative structure and poetic language is intensely compelling. I ended up reading it in one sitting.
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies, Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists, and Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by J. K. Rowling (e-books)
These little e-books curate Rowling’s Pottermore writing around a common theme. They won’t be new for readers who’ve spent time at the site. I haven’t, though, so I downloaded them for soothing bedtime reading. I was not disappointed. In a funny coincidence, I downloaded the first one, which featured McGonagall’s story, and found out the next day that it was her birthday.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal (audio book from the library)
I went into this novel knowing nothing about the story and found it enchanting. It’s one of the most uniquely structured books I’ve read this year. The life of celebrity chef Eva Thorvald unfolds through the eyes of seven people whose lives have intersected with hers at various points in their lives. In a sense, this structure mimics how we get to know “celebrities” in the real world – from other people’s stories rather than through our own first hand experience. The narrative form foregrounds the nature of perception and interpretation, in powerful ways.
Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France by Craig Carlson (e-book)
My big takeaway from this book was, never ever ever try to open a business in France. Ha. Probably not the author’s point, but anyway. Carlson pulls off his dream of opening an American-style diner in Paris, though it takes all the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears … as well as a night in a Parisian slammer. Interwoven with his business story is insight into his childhood, what drives him, and his quest to overcome scars from his childhood and find love. It’s a charming, chatty, upbeat memoir perfect for cheering up a gloomy day.
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (e-book)
Reading this novel was depressing and exhilarating at the same time. Depressing because it’s 300 pages of waiting for the hammer to drop – and I mean Thor’s hammer, not some puny mortal hammer. It’s intense. On the other hand, the prose is celestial. The combination of beauty and tension had me holding my breath almost to the last word.
My friend Jessica recommended this fantasy series for young readers. I gobbled up the first two books (and the third, but we’ll talk about that in my November reading wrap-up). In the first book, Sophie Foster learns she’s not only human after all (who picked up the music reference?). She’s an elf with more powers than any of her kind. Why was she living with humans? How did she come by these extraordinary powers? That’s what the books build to reveal, with loads of excitement, adventure, and drama along the way.
When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning (e-book)
If you love books about books AND World War II books, you might appreciate this nonfiction read. Manning researched the World War II programs that put books in the hands of American GIs. I had no idea such programs existed. Did you? Manning explores what inspired the programs, how they evolved over the course of the war, and how they helped shape the post-war years. The letters from soldiers Manning excerpts warmed my book-loving heart.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett (hardback borrowed from a friend)
This novel is perfect for book clubs. An inciting event (which follows another inciting event that happens before the story begins) launches the story. The rest of the novel explores the ripples left in its wake. How the community and the characters respond, the choices (large and small) they make, and the impact of those choices left me thinking about the book long after I finished it. Bennett’s novel is also an interesting study in how tension can keep readers hooked. The most gripping aspect revolves not around what will happen next but how these characters will respond and how their responses affect the relationships among them. It’s a subtle but significant shift of focus.
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (e-book from my pre-2016 library)
I read this novel the weekend before Halloween. Perfect timing for this weird, spooky, haunting book. It opens with the death of Elspeth in London. Across the pond, her twin sister, Edie, seems determined to keep her own twins, Julia and Valentina, away from anything to do with Elspeth. Alas, Elspeth has left all her possessions – including her London flat, located across from Highgate Cemetery – to the girls. They move to London and … many, many bizzaro things happen. I couldn’t predict where the story was going but found it engrossing.
The Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #2) by Rick Riordan (hardback borrowed from the library)
Norse demigod Magnus Chase and his friends – a Valkyrie, an elf, and a dwarf – have to find Thor’s hammer before Loki and his team of baddies do. That’s the premise that kicks off non-stop adventure along with hilarious, clever plays on pop culture. The All-Father Odin is obsessed with giving Powerpoints. Thor is a ditz. Giants love bowling. It’s mayhem and absurdity, often in the same sentence. This book had me snickering and giggling and chuckling. All kinds of laughing. I hope Rick Riordan keeps writing books forever.
Books I’m currently reading:
I finished Everblaze (book three in Messenger’s series), which was almost impossible to put down.
I’m also reading Tim Parks’ fabulous collection of essays on reading, Where I’m Reading From: The Changing World of Books. They’re incredibly thought provoking and smart.
Books I bought:
Ugh. I can’t even bring myself to type the list. It’s upsettingly long. My friend Jessica dragged me kicking and screaming to a library book sale on $5 per bag day. It’s not like I showed up at her house with a maniacal grin and the largest, sturdiest reusable tote I possess. Not at all. Oh wait, that’s exactly what happened. Ooops.
The situation spiraled out of control quickly.
Also, I bought “a few” e-books.
Let us not speak of it.
How was your reading month in October?