Books read in July

The month in which Patricia sabotages her plan to read many fewer books than she read in 2010.


The Hour I First Believed

Wally Lamb

This is a massively long book which I found to be a very, very good read. It wandered onto an additional tangent there near the end. I could have done without the Quaker/Abolitionist/Prison Reformer character/tangential side plot, but I was willing to because Wally Lamb is excellent at writing characters I want to keep reading. This novel is sweeping in that it covers, Columbine, the fallout from Hurricane Katrina and prison reform as well as family secrets large and small. Could it possibly be a bit over written? Possibly yes. Did I compulsively read until the end despite this fact? Yes indeed. In another nine years when Lamb finishes his next novel, I will happily line up to read that one too. Or wait to come across it in the library, which is what I did with this one.

The Tempest

William Shakespeare

Oh crap, we’re seeing the Tempest tonight. That means I need to start and finish reading this play today. As usual, the Bard’s words failed to move me, but the play was quite delightful.

Lost & Found

Geneen Roth

Roth uses the loss of her fortune (thanks, Bernie Madeoff!) to examine how her relationship with money is similar to her relationship with food, as well as how family experiences with money contributed to her view of, and management of her money.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Aimee Bender

Aside from having the best title of the year (I sometimes randomly say it to myself for fun) this is a wonderfully written piece of magical realism. In my view, the best magical realism causes me to think, “what would my life be like if that happened to me?” and this book kept me pondering, in many different ways, after I finished it and I’m guessing I will continue to think of it on and off for years.

It’s also a my favorite kind of magical realism: somewhat impossible to make into a plausible film. That means I get to keep my own pictures in my head.

Red Hook Road

Ayelet Waldman

So Bildungsroman is a novel which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood, but what is the term (and it must have a somewhat Germanic sounding name) for a novel that examines the thoughts and motivations of a family, or group of characters, usually after some major event has happened. English majors, help me out here.

This is my favorite kind of novel. I get to drop in on a family, see what’s going on, make judgements about their motivations, become attached to them and see how it all works out in approximately 500 pages or so. For a long time, I resisted reading Ayelet Waldmen because she’s married to my Amazing 21st Century Novelist/Essayist Boyfriend (Michael Chabon) and I was worried that reading her might mess up my relationship with him, but it turns out we can all happily exist together and I have another good author to catch up with.

The Postmistress

Sarah Blake

Sort of a second-tier, Lifetime Movie or Hallmark Channel-esque entry into WWII US based fiction. It wasn’t great, but I kept reading.

Blood Meridian

Cormac McCarthy

Read for Kenton Library Book Group

I really hated this novel for the fact that it was too violent and there was never any explanation or explorations as to why the characters were so violent. I felt like I was trapped in a Quentin Tarantino film. I kept reading, hoping for something–anything–that would make me like this book, and also because I was reading it for book group. I never found anything to like, but in the book group discussion I learned that the premise of this book was based on a historical incident, which was interesting. Also that there is a free e-book available for those who want to delve into the nuances of the story.

While I was reading the book, I was explaining to someone that I had a bookmark advertising the movie Jayne Eyre in my copy of Blood Meridian and her comment was, “You need a bookmark for that book. Every time you open it, there’s some sort of killing going on.”

I really enjoyed “The Road” and “All the Pretty Horses” but I was not a fan of this book.

Gardening Without Water

Charlotte Greeno

I was hoping this was a comprehensive sort of book about storing a lot of water including step-by-step instructions as to how to build such a system for myself. Alas, it wasn’t. It’s an English book, so some things don’t apply. Like she cut into her pipes to divert greywater into her shrubbery and observed that most pipes in England are on the outside of the house, so this is easy to do. Not so in America.

The Eyere Affair

Jasper Fforde

A quite delightful alternate-reality-English-special-forces-in-the-literary-sense book. I particularly enjoyed the Richard III as Rocky Horror Picture Show scene.

Freedom: A Novel

Jonathan Franzen

Yeah, so, WOW. There was so much to like about this book. It was huge. There were a lot of words. Paragraphs were very long and the semicolon was used to make sentences even longer. It was very observant about the quirks of late 20th/early 21st century US lifestyle. The writing was fabulous, so much so that I added at least seven quotes to my Goodreads quotes page. It is a novel I keep thinking about. And it was so well written that it took me more than a week to realize I didn’t really like any of the characters. Really. They all were kind of icky in their own way, but so completely and competently drawn that I was so entangled with their lives and I didn’t notice that I would not have enjoyed being their friends in real life.
Also, Richard’s interview where he compares making music to manufacturing chicklets? Priceless. That along was worth the price of admission. But you also get numerous other human foibles and humerous situations included free! Read it today!

Started, did not finish

Great House
Nicole Krauss
I really tried to like this book, but the writing was spare and I couldn’t get into the related short story setup.

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