Not an outstanding fiction month, but good enough.
Mexican White Boy
Matt de la Pena
Recommended by Fabulous Librarian Deborah, I initially had to put down this YA novel because it was a bit too gritty for me. I get excited when I read YA literature that tells stories of other classes and cultures, yet the characters reminded me of the students I volunteered with at a middle school. Were they doing some of the things these characters were? Also, after all these years, I still feel uncomfortable with teenagers drinking. It throws me right back to my high school awkwardness around the issue. I didn’t drink and I just wished that everyone else wouldn’t either.
After a few weeks of separation, I nosed back into the pages and found that I couldn’t let go of the characters. The main character’s struggle–and his various ways of dealing with–not fitting into either world was gripping and I was incorrect in my prediction of what was up with his dad. There was one rather loose end left untied which I would have appreciated some clarity about, but otherwise, after my first reaction, I greatly enjoyed this book.
I thought the shift in narrators mid-book was a particularly brilliant strategy. Up until the shift the book is interesting. How does it work when your dad has an entirely different “real” family and you are the secret family? But once we shift to the legitimate daughter’s point of view the tension mounts as we explore the realities of her life.
I will be investigating this author’s other work.
Fiona, Stolen Child
Read for Kenton Library Book Club
Oh dear, this book was a steamin’ heap of first novel cliches! Dead sister inspiring guilt? Check! Sexual abuse of main character? Check! Inability to deal with various aspects of life because of it? Check! Strained relationship with remaining sibling? Check! I sighed through every page and if it wasn’t a book club book, I would have put it down. Interestingly, the author came to book group and chatted with us about the book. I enjoyed hearing about how she came to write this book. Talking with her, I could see how attached she was to her character and the novel itself, which she wrote over a period of ten years. I enjoyed her chatting, much more than I did the book. Based on this chatting when her next book appears, I’ll dip into it and see if the second novel is more to my liking.
Spooky Little Girl
There were clunky parts to this story and details that didn’t quite match up. For instance my drug counselor boyfriend pointed out that drug tests are not like pregenancy tests. They come about in a different manner. However, I greatly enjoy reading people’s imaginings of the afterlife and Notaro’s was sparkly and interesting. It’s a fun book that one shouldn’t think too deeply about.
The Pot and How to Use It
Roger Ebert is a funny man. Aside from the fact that he clearly loves movies, his writing style and general giddiness is one reason I love to read him. In this, he makes an argument for cooking with “the pot” by which he means a rice cooker. Apparently it’s a one-pot cooking wonder. There’s a line about men who cook in the introduction that slayed me and his argument was enough to convince me to buy a rice cooker, although I haven’t done so at this juncture. Perhaps when I do get one, it won’t die early on like the last one did.
Anne of the Island
Anne becomes a B.A. and we follow her through her college years. They go by fairly quickly in many very short chapters of three pages or so. As I was reading a chapter per day, it took forever to finish this book. Future chapter-per-day readers take note: combining several chapters together will help this seem to be shorter than four years. Though this was an enjoyable tale, I feel like Montgomery only has enough juice in her to develop one character per book. In this book it was Priscilla Grant, the somewhat spoiled, full-of-fun housemate of Anne. Everyone else remains shadows who flit through, including Roy Gardiner, whom Anne almost becomes engaged to. If there is any character I should have a good picture of it is him.
Aside from that (rather major) failing, it was still an enjoyable, entertaining book, and much more fun to read on a daily basis than Fiona, Stolen Child.
Half the poems are from teenaged girl’s points of view and half are from their teenage boy counterpart. Only one poem did I find “keepable” so this book was not for me, but I’m not really the demographic.
Started and did not finish
You Learn by Living
Eleanor Roosevelt has a very chatty writing style that I found enjoyable to read. However, I wasn’t so much into self improvement when I was reading the book, and did not make much progress. I was not able to renew it, so back it went. I might pick it up again later when improvement to self is a more interesting idea.