Mini-Reviews of Recent Reads: June 2018
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Just popping in from my blogging break for a quick reading update! I hope everyone is reading wonderful books and enjoying the first weeks of summer. I know it’s not officially summer until next week, but it feels like summer kicks in as soon as school is out. We’re taking advantage of the warm weather and spending plenty of time at the pool and splash pad.
In spite of valiant attempts to manage my library holds, I had some come in sooner than I expected (physical copies that I’d forgotten reserving), so my May reading plan went off the rails a little. Here’s what I’ve been reading:
I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit.
Love and Ruin
I have such mixed feelings about this story about Hemingway's third wife, Martha Gellhorn, and her efforts to forge her own identity as a writer. Paula McClain's writing is excellent, and at the start of this novel I was captivated. The question of what drew Gellhorn to Hemingway, beyond his fame, loomed large for me. I started to get a little bored about 2/3 of the way through when the story started to drag. But towards the end: redemption! I was again captivated. Maybe when it comes to Hemingway, what I'm looking for is a little more "ruin" (I'm not a fan, #sorrynotsorry), and when it comes to Gellhorn, she shone when she was exercising her independence. Many other bloggers have loved this without reserve, so it's worth checking out if you have an interest in Hemingway and/or Gellhorn.More info →
This recent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of Arthur Less, a failing novelist on the brink of turning 50. When he receives an invitation to his former lover's wedding, he decides to embark on an around-the-world journey to avoid the event. Less accepts various speaking engagements, award ceremonies, and teaching appointments to ensure that he will be out of the country. On this journey, Less ruminates on his past and dreads his future as an aging, single gay man (he feels there is no precedent for this) and failed writer. Less is both frustrating and endearing, a bit bumbling, and above all, certain of his own failures. Those around him rarely disabuse him of these notions, but they also see more in him that he sees in himself. This book won't be for everyone--it's light on plot and heavy on wandering musings, and can be slow at times--but for a reader in the right mood it's a sweet and sometimes funny read. Certain parts had me laughing out loud.More info →
Tell Me More: Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say
I borrowed this book from the library, but it's one that I'm tempted to purchase to keep in my bedside table. The twelve things that Kelly Corrigan is learning to say are things that we all need to learn to say, and I think women and mothers in particular feel many of these deeply. Corrigan weaves in small anecdotes over larger narratives of family, friendship, and loss. Her reflections bring her to comfort with uncertainty, with deeper listening and less solving, and with setting limits--among other things. Each reader will find something different that resonates. For me, the essays "Tell Me More" and "No" stuck out, but I suspect that will change through the years. Worth a read, and a revisit.More info →
The Gunners is a story of childhood friendships revisited in adulthood. This is a common theme that is often explored in more sinister books--The Chalk Man and several by Stephen King come to mind. While there are hints of underlying darkness in this book--the driver for the reunion, after all, is the suicide of one of the friends--the story is less about the sinister than about the friendships.
Mikey Callahan is the only one of six childhood friends to remain in their hometown, aside from the long-estranged Sally, who has taken her life in adulthood. The remaining friends trickle into town for the funeral, reconnect, and confess old and new secrets.
As long-held misunderstandings are remedied, the friends realize that they may not have known each other as well as they thought--but also that this unknowing is a constant in relationships, and they can endure anyway. While not everything is resolved--as it almost never is in the case of suicide--this is a lovely book about the power of friendship, forgiveness, and acceptance.More info →
This Is How It Always Is
Rosie and Penn are raising a loud, unique family of five boys. From science to stories to knitting to costumes, the family is full of quirks that are embraced and nurtured.
So when 5-year-old Claude declares that he wants to be a girl, his parents support him. Soon Claude has become Poppy, a girl to all outside the family and accepted as one within his family. But secrets weigh heavy, time can't be slowed, and the safety of childhood and family can't shield Poppy from difficult future decisions and the outside world forever.
I loved this story of imperfect parents whose hardest lesson isn't accepting a child who is different, but accepting that facing the difficulties and fears is sometimes the best way to be supportive.More info →
An American Marriage
Roy and Celestial are on top of the world: young, talented, newlyweds, and planning their futures and family. When a trip to Roy's hometown puts them in the wrong place at the wrong time, Roy finds himself convicted of a crime he didn't commit, and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Their dreams shattered, Roy lives in limbo and struggles to hold onto his marriage, while Celestial pursues her goals and tries to live her life without her husband present.
As years go by, the two must determine whether their marriage can survive Roy's incarceration. This book is a thoughtful look at the personal costs of racial injustice in the United States.Roy and Celestial are both flawed but sympathetic characters as they navigate lives held hostage.
There are no easy answers as the families try to salvage the wreckage wrought by racism and a system that assumes guilt.More info →
Vinegar Girl: A Novel
Anne Tyler's modern retelling of the Taming of the Shrew brings us Kate Battista, a 20-something who is stuck at home and in a dead-end job. When her scatterbrained scientist father asks her to consider marrying his assistant, who is about to lose his visa, Kate has to decide what path she wants her life to take. A light, easy audiobook listen.More info →
Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship
This book about the power of female friendships was a little drier than I expected, but it was peppered with pop culture and personal anecdotes, which kept me reading. I was hooked when the book started with a long reflection on the movie Beaches--a movie I first watched with one of my childhood best friends when we were about ten. It quickly became our all-time favorite, and so this seemed like a book I was meant to read. Even so, this book didn't resonate with me as much as it might with someone a bit younger. It did make me reflect on those wonderful years when friends were everything, and wish that my lifelong friends were not all many states away.More info →
This book is timely because one of those lifelong best friends is coming to visit from out of state next week. I’m ridiculously excited to spend more than a couple hours with her and her family, which is what usually happens when we do the whirlwind family/friend tour in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Fun fact: we met at summer camp when we were fifteen. Not an ordinary summer camp–we biked across Wisconsin (there’s nothing like bonding over sore butts for a week). We stayed casually in touch after that, and then she transferred to my university and we were roommates during my senior year.
Anyway, I expect to be back to regular blogging again in a couple weeks. In the meantime, let me know what you’ve been reading (or if you’ve read any from my list above), and check out some posts from this time last year.
- What I Was Reading in April and May
- 6 Nonfiction Books that Read Like Novels
- The 10 Best Books I Read Halfway Through 2017
I haven’t seen many reviews of Text Me When You Get Home, so it was fun to read your take on it! I don’t read much nonfiction, but this sounds interesting. Maybe I should watch Beaches before reading??
I recommend it, just because I love it 🙂 But it’s not essential. The book actually covers a lot of different pop culture friendships, many from books, shows, and movies that I hadn’t read or watched. It was fun when I was familiar with the reference, but it didn’t take away from the reading when I wasn’t.
A lot of new titles here! I haven’t been reading too much brand new stuff, but I’m actually in the middle of a different McLean novel (Circling the Sun), which I’ve found…okay, so far. I loved The Paris Wife, but I’m finding it really hard to like anyone in this particular one. Might still try In Love and Ruin though!
Yes, I usually have a better mix of old and new! All due to the library holds getting away from me. I’m reading a few things from my shelf right now–still trying to work through those as well 🙂
I’ve heard great things about The Paris Wife, but I’m not sure I’m ready for another Hemingway novel. Maybe someday!
You read some great ones this month! I loved An American Marriage, This is How It Always Is, and Tell Me More (LOVE Corrigan).
I DNF’d Love and Ruin…I thought it was super slow. And liked The Gunners, but definitely had some issues with it.
I hope you’re getting lots done on your blog during your hiatus and can’t wait to see what you’ve got coming!
I’m trying to get a lot done, but summer is making it hard 🙂 I hope I haven’t built up the grand plans for the hiatus too much! It has been nice, though, and I’ve been able to get at least a few things done and do a little future planning. There’s never enough time for everything I want to do!
Will probably be back to regular posting next week.
I hesitate to read anything about Hemingway’s other wives because I really like how he speaks of his first one in his memoir, A Moveable Feast, and I just want to forget about the doushbag he was for leaving her so I have convinced myself to swear off The Paris Wife because I don’t want to be reminded of their unravelling marriage (pathetic and ridiculous? Maybe). On a different note, An American Marriage sounds gripping and thought-provoking. Adding it to my TBR now! My May reviews are linked in my name.
Interesting about A Moveable Feast! I think Hemingway was a romantic without the follow-through. He seemed to love falling in love but couldn’t stay there. Fair enough, I guess, but he seemed particularly self-destructive about it.
I loved Tell Me More and This is How it Always Is. Both made me think. Tell Me More reminded me that I’m an OK mom/wife and that it’s ok to say No. This is How…reminded me we don’t always know what’s going on inside other’s homes and maybe who a kid wants to be is all that matters.
I agree. This Is How It Always Is in particular gave me insight into transgender issues, which was something I wasn’t very familiar with. I loved Penn and Rosie’s acceptance of Claude, but there’s no getting around the difficulty of it, especially at certain decision points.
Oh gosh, I have *got* to get around to reading An American Marriage and Text Me When You Get Home! Everything I hear about them makes me quiver with anticipation.
This month, I’m still trucking my way through my list of books I “should” have read already: I knocked over The Bell Jar, and I’m currently mid-way through The Age of Innocence – both fantastic! I’m not quite sure what’s up next, maybe The Thirty-Nine Steps for something different?
Keep up the great work! 😉
Thanks! It’s been years since I read The Bell Jar, and I haven’t read either of the other two, so don’t feel too behind 🙂
Isn’t it funny how you can have a huge list of TBRs and something just jumps out at you as “must read now!”
I LOVE this post! I have read a few of these but hadn’t heard of others. Your “mini” reviews were enough to give me a taste of whether or not I wanted to read more. THANKS.
Thank you! I’m glad it was helpful. Hope you found something good!
Somehow I missed this when it first posted, Allison. I’m blaming the end of the school year! Anyway, so many great books here. I’ve been really curious about Less, but wandering musings are just not my thing. I’ll skip that one. As to Vinegar Girl, quirky characters and an uncomplicated plot are my perfect combination for audiobooks (with great narration, of course). Hope all is going well for you.