Thursday, September 1, 2016

What I Read in August


If I felt like I didn't do enough reading in July, I certainly made up for it in August, with a new record: 10 books! This is due partly to the fact that I spent four days at a cabin in the woods sans wifi, where I plowed through about a book a day, & due partly to the fact that a few of these were very easy reads (see: an ebook by a former People staffer). August ran the gamut from frivolous (see: the memoir of a Bachelorette contestant) to serious (see: the memoir of a mass shooter's mother), with lots of character-driven novels & quirky personal essays in between. Oh, yeah - and a Harry Potter book! Let's get to it, shall we?

Red Carpet Regret: Confessions of a Cynical Celebrity Journalist by Sara Hammel

The author, a longtime freelancer for People magazine, recently quit her job in a spectacular, headline-making way, by writing a long letter about all the ways the magazine has changed for the worse during her tenure. While this short Kindle mini-memoir does provide a fun & sometimes juicy look into the world of celebrity "journalism," I was continually distracted by how poorly it was edited (so many typos). Moreover, it was clearly blatant promotional tool for the author's new novel (so many references to it), which felt insultingly PR-driven & frankly just tacky. ★★☆☆☆

The Girls by Emma Cline

A Book of the Month Club read. This one has a fascinating premise - about a woman who falls in with a cult - but the writing was so pretentious & overwrought that it was nearly impossible to like. We get it, Emma Cline, you've got a massive mental thesaurus & a way with analogies - but did you need to use all of it in this one little book? Tempted though I was to abandon it, the story kept me compelled, & the ending was mostly satisfying. Still, the language was so flowery & all the characters so pitiful that when I got to the last page, I just felt a mixture of exhaustion & relief. ★★☆☆☆

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Oh, how I wish this had been a "real" Harry Potter book, but still, it was enough to re-enter this world even just for a moment, in whatever form Rowling allows us. The fact that it was shared as a script made it easier for me to overlook major plot holes & my overall negative feelings toward the use of time travel as a literary device. I loved returning to Hogwarts & spending time with so many old friends - as well as meeting some new ones. ★★★★☆

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman by Nora Ephron

Stole this book from my mom's bedroom; apparently it came from a Borders of long, long ago (RIP). This is a quick, easy read of short essays by the incomparable Nora Ephron (also RIP), the brilliant & insightful writer of You've Got Mail & other such gems. Topics touch on stereotypically female elements of life, like vanity, housekeeping, dating - all from a witty, feminist perspective. Ephron was in her late 60s when she wrote this, so don't expect it to be quite as progressive as you'd like, but it's still a wonderful, charming book. ★★★★★

Local Girls by Caroline Zancan 

I haven't read a book like this in a long time, the kind that feels compelling & creative but accessible at the same time. It flashes between past, present, & future, telling the story of four friends' rocky relationship, the kind all of us experienced in high school - the kinds that mean so much in the moment but inevitably fall apart with time. It simultaneously tells the story of two turning points in their friendship - their falling out with one of the four, & a brief reunion at a bar one night, where they meet a major movie star on what turns out to be the last night of his life. This is what I'd hoped The Girls would be like, but Zancan delivers it in much more relatable, enjoyable terms. ★★★★☆

It's Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak into Happily Never After by Andi Dorfman

How embarrassed am I to admit that I read a book written by a Bachelorette star? Oh, but I did. My newest guilty pleasure is Bachelor in Paradise, & when a new arrival joined the show, this book became a topic of conversation for all it says about him. Yes, I fell for the marketing. Yes, it was largely an annoying & terribly written waste of time. Yes, Dorfman's ghostwriter appears to be a 17-year-old valley girl. But it was still juuust juicy enough to keep me reading until the end. Hey, I'm a woman of varied tastes. ★★☆☆☆

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

This was a Book of the Month Club book that I didn't buy but was intrigued enough to borrow from the library before my trip. It's a Clue-style whodunit meets The Girl on the Train, the story of a PTSD-suffering insomniac journalist who drinks too much. While on assignment on a state-of-the-art cruise ship, she witnesses a murder - or did she? All passengers & crew are accounted for, so no one believes her. The pacing felt off to me - I wish there'd been more lead-up to the initial reveal - but overall, a well-told mystery that didn't so much keep me guessing who did it so much as it kept me wondering what would happen next. ★★★★☆

A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

Like the rest of the world, I've long been interested in the Columbine shootings, researching them & learning all I can about both the victims & the perpetrators. I was surprised to find that one of the shooter's mothers had written a book, as both families have been notoriously quiet through the years. This was a painful, powerful memoir about a mother's struggle to grieve for her dead son - who she knew as a sweet, thoughtful teen boy - while fighting through oppressive, overwhelming guilt & grief for the community she loves. An absolute must-read. ★★★★★

Agorafabulous! Dispatches from My Bedroom by Sara Benincasa

Is it terrible that the first thing I thought of is what an ironic last name the author has, for being an agoraphobic? Like, "Been in casa"? No? Just me. OK, OK. Anyway, this is a really incredible look at mental illness - how it comes about, what it feels like, how someone comes back from it. Benincasa, now a comedian, was so agoraphobic at age 21 that she was afraid to leave her bedroom & thus urinated in cereal bowls that she hid under her bed. It's a memoir, but it's so readable that it almost feels like a novel. ★★★★★

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

I got this book for free from Book Bub & wasn't expecting much of it, but it turned out to be a great summer novel, easy to read but detailed & complex in its character development. It's about a small Southern community thrown into disarray when a young boy nearly drowns in the local pool; alliances are made secrets & secrets are revealed. Though I found many of the twists to be predictable, they were told in such a way that I was still thrilled to see them unveiled. ★★★★★

***

Oh, & one more! I read this book in one sitting in July but somehow forgot to include it in my July roundup (I guess I know how; see review). Here's my quick take on this quick read.

Sia by Josh Grayson

Terrible. Why did I read the whole thing? In my defense, at least it was quick, but it certainly wasn't painless. This YA fluff read taps into an ages-old trope - the main character has amnesia! - but it's so poorly done it's neither believable nor likeable. SO MUCH happens, in addition to the amnesia: An abduction attempt! Homelessness! Theft! Love! Friendship drama! Alcoholism! A film deal! Was this written by a 15-year-old on speed? It would've gotten an A+ if it were written as a high school project, but as a published novel? GTFO. ★☆☆☆☆

Comment to tell me what you're reading! Then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch & see what I've read in months past.

Please note that my "What I Read in..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but please also don't judge me too harshly for including them.   

0 comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...