Things I read, started to read and didn’t read in October

I read a lot. I always have, and the insomnia problem I’m dealing with just gives me more time to read. I spend more time reading than probably anything in my life with the exception of working and sleeping. So I decided to keep track here of what I read. I added to this entry all through October, with the intention of publishing it at the end of the month. About a week ago I realized that this is a very long entry and I would be better off posting as I finish books and save my end of the month recap for the books I give up on or end up not reading. So new format next month.

The Royal Treatment.
MaryJanice Davidson.
What if the U.S. hadn’t bought Alaska, but instead it had become it’s own country? With a king? And what if the King ran into a feisty American who he thought would be perfect for the crown prince? And what if hijinks ensue? This is a the usual girl-meets-boy book, but setting it in the Sitka Palace in Alaska made it interesting.

Sleeping With Cats: a memoir.
Marge Piercy.
Marge Piercy has lead a very interesting life. And I am an incredibly boring middle class girl. This was a great book.

The Friendship Test.
Elizabeth Noble.
After immersing myself in Ms. Piercy’s fascinating life, I needed some fluff to cotton my mind again. Four friends meet in college, then stay friends and are there for each other when two have problems in their mid-thirties. And there is a romance. I didn’t hate anyone, it didn’t tax my brain and now it is over.

Cataloochee: a novel.
Wayne Caldwell.
Set in Appalachia, one of my favorite kind of books: sprawling time period with a family tree at the front to keep track of the characters as they age and reproduce. It began just as the Civil War was ending and kept going all the way to the 1920’s. This book had me flipping to the family tree constantly, because it had a lot of characters, but I enjoyed getting to know them as they aged.

Sex Wars.
Marge Piercy.
This was a great book. I really like Marge Piercy, her novel Gone to Soldiers is one of my top 10. It’s not about that type of sex, but what we would refer to as gender. The book takes place in the 1870s and follows a few main characters: a Jewish Immigrant from Russia, Anthony Comstock (of the Comstock Laws), Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Victoria Woodhouse. Their stories intertwine and made me both happy that women have a lot of rights now and also angry about the status of women, both historically and today. Marge Piercy really brings this time period to life.

Fun Home
Alison Bechdel
Matt is the graphic novel reader in the house–my skimming style of reading and leftover classist issues mean that I don’t read them. I did read Craig Thompson’s “Blankets,” which was good, and Matt also introduced me to the serial comic “Dykes to Watch Out For” drawn by Alison Bechdel. Matt being Matt, he also checked out all the “Dykes” books from the library so we’ve both read the whole series. It’s good. Anyway, the foremost author of “Dykes” has written a memoir about her father’s death when she was 20 and he was 44. A few months before his death, and right after (like the sentence after) she came out as a lesbian, Bechdel’s mother told her that her father slept with men. This book is a history of her life with her family and is beautifully told and drawn. In discussing with Matt, I learned that it is better to read a chapter, then put the book down and come back later for the next, rather than devour it in two days as I did.

Every Man for Himself: Ten Short Stories About Being a Guy
Ed. Nancy E. Mercado
Not the short stories I thought it would be, a fact which is clearly stated in the introduction: “They are not stories about your voice changing, learning how to shave, or any other ‘coming-of-age’ cliches like that.” Instead there are 10 pretty original stories. About a guy who has a lottery to take a girl to the prom and finds that every action around that becomes a statement for someone. About The Unbeatable, a student at the NewMan Academy for the Enhanced who’s name gets him into a lot of trouble. About a boy sent to live with his grandmother who, when she catches him kissing a girl, makes him take care of a piglet. A few of these stories I did not enjoy, but most were good.

Rock Star, Superstar
Blake Nelson.
Pete is a high school student who plays bass in a band. It’s a cover band, but they make good money. He joins another band and they suddenly have a chance to make it big. But is this high school student ready for the big time? And how does this affect his relationship with his girlfriend, his father and his friends? I read a good amount of Young Adult fiction and this was some good stuff. It was also set in Portland, so that was fun. And the main character reminded me of one of the kids in my youth group. Blake Nelson wrote “Paranoid Park” which Gus Van Sant adapted into his new movie.

Linden Hills
Gloria Naylor.
I read Mama Day in college and loved the book. I tried to read The Men of Brewster Place and couldn’t get into it. So when I was checking out books a few weeks ago I stumbled into the “N’s” and happily found Naylor, Gloria. This book is about land owned by a former slave before the Civil War. After the war his son and grandson, etc through five generations build Linden Hills, a subdivision for only the best black people. But all isn’t as it seems in Linden Hills as two young men find out as they do odd jobs to make money before Christmas. This was engrossing, but hard to read, I finished three other books as I was reading this one. I kept getting distracted trying to figure out where this Linden Hills was supposed to be set (it may have said at the beginning of the book, but I wasn’t paying attention) and also what the time period was. Other than that, it was a great character study of a handful of characters. Mama Day makes a two paragraph cameo.

Paranoid Park
Blake Nelson
Another YA book by Blake Nelson. This one is about a high school kid who inadvertently, well, it’s pretty gruesome and I don’t want to say what it is, but he didn’t mean it to happen. He gets away with it, and the book traces his reaction in the days and weeks after it happens. Gus Van Sant’s newest movie is based on this book. The “it” scene is very well written in a screw-up-your-face kind of a way. This is also set in Portland. It may inspire a Gus Van Sant movie with dialog again.

Started but didn’t finish:
What goes around.
Alexandra Carew.
I hate this book. I’m only reading it because I have no other fiction right now. Every character I have encountered I have hated. No more!

In a Country of Mothers.
A.M. Holmes.
I really liked the last book I read by her (This Book Will Save Your Life) and expected to like this one. However, the shrink, one of the main characters, was entirely unlikeable by the close to the end point (about 20 pages more to go) and her patient wasn’t so great either. Plus, neither of these people seemed to need money. Like they didn’t have to go to work. It just bugged and I stopped reading.

Catching Alice.
Claire Naylor.
I grabbed this while I was grabbing Linden Hills. It’s one of those novels that Bridget Jones has paved the way to publish. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve found in the last 10 years where the main character is tragically flawed, spends the whole book flailing about and finds love at the end. In Bridget Jones there was much laughter. Most of the other ones range from fluffy to sad. This was sad. I’m not even going to bother telling you the plotline.

Anything Considered
Peter Mayle
I really liked A Year in Provence. Every piece of Mayle fiction I’ve read since that time. Eh. It passes the time, but I don’t really like it. I’m about 20 pages from the end and will I finish? Who knows? Who cares? This story is about an Englishman living in France who is out of money and advertises for a position. Anything considered. He ends up on this convoluted chase. It’s kind of boring.

Sugar Blues
William Dufty
I haven’t eaten sugar since late September (except the slice of cake I had on my birthday). I checked this book out of the library because it is a classic, but it is so dated. I already think sugar is bad for you, so I don’t really need 200 pages to tell me the entire history of sugar and all the havoc, physically and socially, it has created. I skimmed, then skipped entire chapters. Then I flipped to the second to last chapter, read it and then decided that was all I needed of that particular book.

Checked out of the library and didn’t even read:

Life your Life for Half the Price: Without Sacrificing the Life You Love.
Mary Hunt.
I just read a book by her and wasn’t ready to read another one. I’m not in the mood for financial books, though I do go through stages where I will read tons of them.

One thought on “Things I read, started to read and didn’t read in October”

  1. Wow! I am so impressed. I am just working my way through a cheesy but fun murder mystery series. You are so much better about picking up a book instead of turning on the TV. That is one of my weaknesses. So bad! We always give up TV for Lent – and it is wonderful! I don’t always have the discipline other times. And thanks for the thorough recommendations of each of the books you listed! I hope to check them out! -S

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