Wednesday, June 20, 2018

May Reads in Review, 2018


54. Mad Boy by Nick Arvin - Against the backdrop of the War of 1812, young Henry Phipps resolves to fulfill his mother's last wish: burial by the sea, near her family home. A wild adventure, beautifully written, and one of my favorites of 2018, so far.

55. The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan - The follow-up to The Café by the Sea continues the story of residents on a small Scottish Isle. I haven't read the first book and The Endless Beach stands alone fine, but I recommend reading the two in order. Has the feel of a soap opera - I felt very involved in the lives of the characters.

56. Obscura by Joe Hart - A scientist who has lost her husband to a new disease and whose daughter has also acquired it agrees to go to a space station to research the symptoms of astronauts. The trip may be her last hope to save her daughter.  But, when people start dying, she's accused of murder. An action-packed, often violent, near-future sci-fi. I particularly enjoyed the ending.

57. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng - A family's house has burned and the fire chief says it was an arson. There were little fires everywhere, not a single source. The author takes you back to events leading up to the fire: the arrival of a photographer and her daughter who changed family dynamics of their landlord, the legal case over an adoption, and an unexpected pregnancy offer views of motherhood from a number of different angles. An absorbing read.

58. Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages - A middle grade book about a young girl who loves to play baseball and is an excellent pitcher but is rejected by Little League because it's for boys only. Determined to change the minds of those in charge, she researches women in baseball and discovers a rich history. Set in the 1950s. A terrific read and a great learning experience.

59. Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein Halevi - An Israeli citizen born and raised in the US describes his Jewish beliefs and why he believes a two-state solution is the best option for resolving the conflict. Lovely writing and fascinating reading but if you don't understand the Israel/Palestine history, I recommend reading up, first.

60. The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold - After he attends a party and then goes to hang out with the son of a scientist, after, Noah finds that almost everything in his life has changed. To figure out what happened, he examines the things that haven't been altered. A bit of a head trip. I liked how this story was resolved but had a little trouble getting through it.

61. The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino - When a dying writer arrives at a retirement home in a converted mansion, he is inspired to write again by a woman whose face is damaged and she is, in turn, inspired by him. Two other authors join in, helping to write this final novel while the writer's muse slowly begins to develop the courage to show herself to the world, again. Not a favorite but I liked it.

May was a low-quantity reading month, obviously, but I liked or loved everything I read. Favorites were Mad Boy, Little Fires Everywhere, Out of Left Field, and Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, all for vastly different reasons. Out of Left Field was the most educational and Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor was the one book that led me on a new learning pursuit. I've been slumpish, so I haven't gotten anywhere at all on Israel/Palestine -- one of the books I bought to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, which were extensive -- but I know I'll return to it and I've already learned a great deal, so I'm grateful to Letters for the nudge to learn more about the world.

I really enjoyed Obscura and The Endless Beach, also, although I felt like I was missing a little something in not having read the first of Jenny Colgan's books set on the Scottish island of Mure, The Café by the Sea. Actually, The Endless Beach should probably be in the first paragraph because I was completely swept away by the storytelling. I've been a fan of Jenny Colgan since her Chick Lit days in the 90s and she hasn't disappointed me, yet.

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik and The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) were both good reads that I liked but Strange Fascinations was all over the place (it was as psychedelic as its cover) and I had trouble keeping the various strands in my head. Eventually, it all came together and I liked it but I didn't love it. Bar Harbor was also a book that I liked but didn't love, primarily because there was a great deal of lust and sex, but very little in the way of real relationship development. It has a story within a story and, as is often the case, I found that I was enjoying one over the other. I don't regret reading either of those books, though. I'm quick to ditch a book I really dislike.

So, overall, it was a good month in spite of apparently leading into my summer slump. If I had to choose one book to recommend, it would be Mad Boy. It is a marvelous and very unusual read, both cleverly plotted and brilliantly written, in my humble opinion. Next in line would be Little Fires Everywhere. Those two alone made May a worthy month.

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  1. That’s not a bad month at all. I need to read Little Fires.

    1. Thanks! Yes, you definitely need to read Little Fires. I thought it was excellent.

  2. You had a great month! I wouldn't mind reading the Joe Hill book and of course Little Fires is on my list too!

    1. Thanks! Little Fires is great. I don't know if I'd have gotten around to reading it, if not for my book group, so I'm grateful someone suggested it. You must mean the Joe Hart book, Obscura? It's a pretty fun read, although a little slow and stilted. But, the last 50 pages are edge-of-seat reading and that made up for any of its minor flaws.


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