Reading Lists

My blogging mojo has been even scarcer than my reading mojo of late. I’ve spent a lot of my free time watching melodramatic cop shows on Netflix instead. Sometimes a problem that’s resolved in 45 minutes really hits the spot.

To try to get back on track, here’s a list of what I’ve been reading and trying to read lately. I’d love to talk more about any of them in the comments. Continue reading

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TBR Challenge: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

This month’s TBR Challenge theme is “Something Different,” and that did pose a challenge for me. I like the constraints of the themes because I’m less overwhelmed when choosing from the vastness of my TBR, but “something different” is very open. Plus I was just getting my reading mojo back after mountains of end-of-term grading, and I had brand new books and library books I wanted to get to that didn’t count as “TBR.” Having dithered over what to pick so long that I was almost out of time, I grabbed Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds off my bedside bookshelf, figuring it would go fast. I rarely read comics or graphic novels so it counts as “different.”

Seconds is Bryan Lee O’Malley’s second work, after the Scott Pilgrim series (which I have not read); Seconds is also the name of the restaurant 29-year-old chef Katie is trying to leave so she can open her own place. Because construction on it is (typically) running over time and over budget, she’s currently stuck in limbo. This is a Groundhog Day story in which magic mushrooms give Katie second chances to fix her mistakes and try to make her life perfect, an effort that goes increasingly wrong (although it turns out OK–just not perfect!). The book was in my TBR because my husband and daughter, both Scott Pilgrim fans, read it and passed it on to me. Continue reading

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TBR Challenge: The Wrong Man, by Delaney Diamond

This month’s TBR Challenge theme is contemporary romance. I figured it was time for a diverse read. I’m pretty sure Delaney Diamond’s The Wrong Man, which is both cross-class and inter-racial romance, was in my TBR because Ridley recommended it. Plus, it’s fairly short and I’m in the middle of end-of-term grading.

I really liked the premise of: Talia is African-American, an upper-middle-class, career-focused, recently divorced woman, raised by a grandmother who insisted on perfection and whose ex describes her as cold. She wears heels to Home Depot. Tomas is a construction foreman, Cuban immigrant, and–well, if this were a Regency, he’d be a rake. He’s The Wrong Man for Talia. Sure, this is a cliché, like so many romance set-ups (earthy man rocks uptight woman’s world and shows her how to live, or vice versa), but when it’s done well it’s one I enjoy. This set-up reminded me a bit of the movie Something New.

The Wrong Man is about 150 pages and my feelings were: first 50 pages, pretty good!; second 50, too much sex in proportion to everything else; final 50, big conflicts resolved too quickly, and with a plot twist I hate. (I will spoil it later). Talia and Tomas know each other through mutual friends; they’ve always liked sparring with each other, now she’s single, and you know what comes next, despite their initial resistance. The middle used sex as a short-cut for their growing intimacy. The sex scenes were well-written and I enjoyed reading them. But what about the rest of their lives? Talia is supposedly dedicated to her career, yet she and Tomas never talk about it. The main scene set at her work is when Tomas lures her into stairwell sex, making her late for a meeting with her boss. This made me a) see Talia’s character as inconsistent and b) see her as a fool. Then in the last third all the looming tensions over their class differences and different life goals (country boy who wants a family, city girl who chose career ahead of kids), not to mention the way Talia can’t stand up to her grandmother, blow up big and are resolved too quickly. (I did like that race and culture differences were never seen as problems, except maybe by Talia’s grandmother.)

OK, about that spoiler. Stop here if you don’t want to read it.

Continue reading

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Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf

“I just want to live simply and pay attention to what’s happening each day.”

These words, spoken by Louis Rivers in Kent Haruf’s final novel, could be the book’s epigraph. Although it starts with kind of a wild premise (like, romance-novel fake-engagement level of wild) this is a quiet book that pays attention to daily life. On the surface nothing much happens, and yet everything that matters happens. Our Souls at Night is one of the most moving books I’ve read in ages. I can’t really explain how such a short, simple book achieved such profound effects. Continue reading

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My Year in Reading: First Quarter

The Biggest Difference in 2016 So Far:

Podcasts have replaced a lot of my audiobook time, which is likely to substantially decrease the total number of books I “read.” So far in 2016, I’ve finished one audiobook (Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary). While I’ve also listened to about 30 hours of Robert Caro’s massive Lyndon Johnson bio, that’s still way down from last year. I’m likely to read a lot less non-fiction, in particular, at this rate, so I’m kind of hoping my podcast obsession will taper off soon.

Results of My TBR-Only Experiment:

At the start of the year, I decided to read only from my TBR and library books I already had on hold for January, and then when I realized how early Lent started this year, I extended it until Easter. The upshot? Continue reading

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