Sunday, July 1, 2012

Playing catch-up

Two weeks ago, my nice, loosely organized summer was seriously disrupted by the unexpectedly early arrival of my son, Oliver. We've both spent the last two weeks recovering from some trauma, which means, obviously, I've been neglecting writing for more important things. (Sometimes you just have to).

However, lots of down-time for/with the baby also means lots of reading time.

Books that I've read in the last two weeks (that I can remember, anyway):

Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist. When I initially started this book, I wasn't sure I wanted to keep going--it starts out in a fairly grim place, with a couple (Macon and Sarah Leary) whose marriage is falling apart following the tragic death of their son. However, I'd heard a lot of good things about the book (and my husband told me he'd liked the movie version), so I stuck with it and I'm glad I did. Macon encounters the much younger and delightfully quirky Muriel and her young son Alexander and they upset his ordered (maybe *too* ordered) existence. Tyler has a lovely, understated writing style, but what I liked most about this was Tyler's life-affirming philosophy. I think Macon sums it up best when he says (and I'm paraphrasing) that the amazing thing about people is that they try so hard, even under discouraging circumstances.

I read two Monica McInerney books--I picked them up mostly because I'd seen her described as an Australian Maeve Binchey. I'm not sure her books were quite as well written as Binchey's, but they were fun stories and perfect for my current frame of mind. I read Greetings from Somewhere, about a young woman who finds herself in Ireland for a year, trying to keep up her aunt's bed and breakfast, so that her family can inherit the property (per her aunt's will) and get the money they desperately need. While I liked the overall story and characters, the plot felt a little thin (there weren't a lot of subplots). I liked Family Baggage better, about a family that runs a small tourist agency. Harriet Turner is leading her first tour abroad after a disastrous meltdown a year earlier (following the death of her parents). Her foster sister, Lara, is supposed to join them, but she disappears unexpectedly the day before the tour starts. It was a pleasure to read about Harriet's gradual regaining of her confidence, and the secret that drives Lara away, while not entirely surprising, brought a couple of different plotlines together in interesting ways.

Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? I don't usually read comic memoirs like this one, but I like Mindy Kaling (even if her Office character frequently drives me crazy). The book was funny and light--no real depth, but entertaining.

Haven Kimmel, A Girl Named Zippy. I loved this one. I've read reviews that say this memoir reads more like a novel than a memoir, and I think that's right. I thought Zippy was an endearingly stubborn character, and I thought the author did a marvelous job treating her childhood sensitively but also intelligently.

Jaqueline West, The Shadows: Book of Elsewhere. I liked the premise of this one: a young girl who discovers a dark magic at work in the paintings in her home. It was just a little dark--and often lonely. (The girl has one friend, who may or may not be alive, and a couple of cats for company).

I also read Melanie Jacobsen's Not My Type and Twitterpated. I enjoyed both of them immensely. Her romances are smart, clean, and a lot of fun. They don't pretend to be particularly deep, but they don't insult the reader either. I think my favorite of her novels is still The List, but I really enjoyed these and wish that she'd hurry up and write more. (My only complaint of Twitterpated is that all the women's character names end in -y, -i, or -ie.)

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