Thursday, July 31, 2014

Month in Review

July has been full of books; that said, I've only read two.  It's usually my wont in an effort to get myself out of a funk to buy or check out a ton or stuff, looking for inspiration and to get out of my reading rut.

I only bought one book, and honestly I forgot I purchased it.  Academic Exercises by KJ Parker was one I pre-ordered a while ago and when it arrived it was a very pleasant surprise.  Her novels haven't really worked for me, but I love her short stories so I'm hoping for the best.

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh was a birthday gift.  This is without doubt the coolest looking book I own.  To the point where I feel bad for those with e-readers as they never got to see it.  Cool as it is, I admit to having to take this dust jacket off when I actually sit down to read it, but damn, it's cool.  It's also sci-fi, which I probably never would have picked up of my own volition but I know the giver of this gift knows my taste so I wouldn't be surprised if I love it.

I checked out five young adult novels from the library, each of which could feasibly be read in a day or two, all of which I'm excited about.  Lastly I got three poetry books from the library ranging from 'thick' 'medium' to 'thin.'  I read slowly.  I read poetry very slowly, so I've no plans to get through this small stack quickly, but hopefully I'll find some good stuff.

As to what I've actually read in July, there isn't much to report.  I knocked out a few more stories from Better living Through Plastic Explosives and I'm about halfway through Love in a Time of Cholera--which is the huge and dense and dense and huge.   My most odd bit of reading this month was A Street of Clocks by Thomas Lux, a poet who I really like and has been my 'go-to' since discovering I liked poetry, except I didn't care for anything in this collection.  It's a collection like this that really makes me wish I could express myself better about poetry so I could say what didn't work for me, despite all the books critical acclaim.  Oh well…

Much as I'm excited to skip to the new stuff, I really want to clean up loose ends and finish Better Living Through Plastic Explosives and Love in the Time of Cholera, that said, August--usually my best reading month of the year--has potential.    

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I'm Talking about Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters

In which people saunter, seethe, and swagger way too much… 

I read this book in a day; which felt great as I've had problems reading anything--let alone to completion--in a a long time.  I finished the book, which means I liked it; I spent most of the day wishing I liked it more.  

It's the story of a girl, Holland, coming out.  And out and out and out and out…  (No seriously, she comes out on every page to the point where I started wishing she'd do something else.)  It hasn't aged terrible well; nor does it feel super dated.  I have an older sister who is gay, out and proud so a lot of the conflict felt luke warm to me, but I'm trying to keep personal experience out of my mind.  I really wish this book started on page seventy-nine instead of page one.  But yeah… I finished it; I liked it.  

Peters' must have had a sketch pad on which she jotted down the fifty most tense, nerve wracking plot scenarios she could come up with; this entire list she came up with was awesome.  Then she pared the list down and managed to cram as much as she could into the book by dialing back on all that made each scenario awesome to begin with.  

'Should have started on page seventy-nine," aside, I don't know how this book didn't have more momentum and power.  A teenager coming to terms with sexual identity while in a healthy and positive sexual relationship with the opposite sex, and being the most popular, image-conscious kid in the school.  It reminded me of Michael Chabon's short story Son of the Wolfman that I felt fell flat even though it was working with such strong material.  

I erased about twenty paragraphs in writing this next phrase: I never bought into Holland being gay.  At the snap of a finger, she sees a girl.  Learns this girl is gay.  That's all it takes. Now, Holland is gay.  Her character wasn't that shallow, but it wasn't much more substantial either…   All the problems--inherent to the story's framework--that could have been exploited but weren't: Seth, Holly's boyfriend, their eventual fallout and all the other subsequent boys she has to fight off; her family stepsister, stepfather; the student body president bit did nothing for the story even though she can identity a hate crime and bullying when she sees it; why use any of that material?  

At the end of the day Holly didn't strike me as a three dimensional character, thus made for a very week protagonist.  

There is a great story in here somewhere (starting on page seventy-nine) but I didn't feel it was ever uncovered.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Month in Review

I can't skip this post for June since I actually, ya know…, read some stuff.  Not a lot but some and considering my recent reading dry spell we'll take 'some' over nothing.

I read Torn Away at the start of the month and finished it so quickly that if feels like a year since I read it!  I also loved the book--which I kinda knew I would before I started reading.  With only a month  since I finished, I can already say that it hasn't stuck with me the way Perfect Escape has.  And while I think it would be foolish to say Jennifer Brown has already written her best book, I would tell anyone who wanted to get into Brown to do so, but save Perfect Escape for last or last--ish.

Today, I finished The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon.  If you've read my blog before, you know I love Chabon.  So how did his first novel go over with me?  To quote the much more literarily expressive than I Marion Deeds, I finished reading and said, "Huh?"

I got both the book and what he was trying to express or communicate, but if I read the book and didn't know it was Chabon I never would have ever guessed that he wrote it.  It's good, and not because it's dated but I'm sure it was even better when it first came out twenty years ago.  There were a few beautiful passages and descriptions that are shades of who he would later become, but none of the characters felt grounded.  I didn't mind all the characters being a caricature of themselves (or at least that's how they came off to me) or super pretentious and knowing I'd never hang out with these people in real life, but what killed me is they weren't real.  None of them felt like flesh and blood beings.  They were great vessels for ideas and living embodiment of concepts and ideals but that was all.

I love Michael Chabon and I'll read anything he writes (no, seriously; I will.) but all I'll say about this book is, "A writer and change/develop/grow a lot in twenty years."

I'm still about halfway through Better Living Through Plastic Explosives it's great but not really what I'm feeling right now.  I may read the remaining stories at a later point in time to appreciate them more than my current stupor will allow.

Since I'm blogging again, I wish the google sidebar thing where I post my 'most recent commentaries' links worked like it used to… Oh well.  Also, I've been giving a lot of though to re-reading stuff.  I've been doing so, as so many of the new-to-me-books I've picked up as of late have been misses that I'm thinking, 'Why not revisit the good stuff?'

I think I'll make a list, not merely of books I liked but ones that I really feel would benefit from a second (or third) visit and then after doing so I'll see if the idea of reading what's on the list still seems appealing or if I need to keep forging ahead.

Nonetheless, I'm reading again which feels good.  Scouring my shelves for more quick and dirty; fast and easy stuff for right now i.e. not Garcia-Marquez, Krauss, or Fowles which is the kinda stuff I own that is staring at me.  I think it's helped me that I'm not setting reading goals a month in advance like I usually do.  When I'm on a roll, doing so is a motivator and helps me read even more, but when I'm not, the opposite is also true.

Lev Grossman's new book is out in August…