Friday, June 03, 2022

Everything I read in May (in brief)



54. A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean - The famous novella that became a Brad Pitt movie is paired with some of Maclean's other stories. "A River Runs Through It" is the best, hands-down, the story of a family of fly fishermen and how the brothers Maclean's lives diverged with one happily married and the other an alcoholic who met a bitter end. I loved it when he waxed eloquent about the beauty of nature but some of the fishing scenes were a huge yawn. The other stories had some similarities in that the men were all very much manly-man types, trying to outdo each other in strength and endurance. There are some raunchy bits but nothing overly graphic; it's mostly talk about things men do when they've been deprived of womanly company and stuck with a bunch of men in the forest. My thanks to Carrie for passing on your copy to me!

55. Spy x Family #4 by Tatsuya Endo - The 4th in the manga series, in which the daughter of the spy family is looking for a dog to adopt. She ends up with a dog trained in spycraft who can see into the future. Since the daughter is a telepath, she can read the dog's mind and see what's about to happen. When she finds out her spy father is going to be killed, can she save him? Always entertaining; I love this series. 

56. The Stranger by Albert Camus - A classic I grabbed at our latest library sale, the story of a man who is cold and emotionless but also a little strange. And, his inability to communicate gets him into even bigger trouble after he murders a man. This was a book I wanted desperately to talk about and, thank goodness, I have the smartest beautician on the planet, so I got to discuss it with her while she was highlighting my hair. I wondered if perhaps the murderer was neurodivergent or psychotic. His inability to understand other people's signals and know how to communicate hinted at the former possibility, his coldness at the latter. An interesting read.

57. Spring by Ali Smith - A grieving elderly man goes to Scotland on a whim, where he considers suicide. And, a girl with the ability to slip into places she doesn't belong intrigues a woman who works in a refugee detention center in England. The detention guard and the girl end up also traveling to Scotland and meeting up with the man. Beyond that, I think most everything is a spoiler but the book is about unnecessary cruelty and injustice and how easy it is to treat people like animals as well as the kindness of people who help others in desperate situations. I loved Spring so much that I ordered the first two in the series, Autumn and Winter

58. Fuzz by Mary Roach - The book I keep thinking about and talking about the most, which has surprised me since I found parts of it a wee bit dull. Fuzz is about what happens when animals "misbehave", chiefly wild animals like bears and elephants. The author travelled the world to find out how things like bear and elephant attacks are handled, what's being done to try to keep the animals from raiding farms and villages or garbage cans in cities, and how scientists are trying to find ways to get animals to scurry off the road more quickly to avoid being hit by automobiles. Fascinating and discussion-worthy. 

59. Spy School: British Invasion by Stuart Gibbs -  I haven't read all of this series in order and usually I don't consider that a problem but Spy School: British Invasion referred back to the previous book more than usual. I think the previous one was Spy School: Down South. At any rate, the book begins in Mexico, where several people have been injured in a battle with the evil SPYDER organization. A key that leads to the identity of the elusive head of SPYDER is found and the trail leads to London and then Paris for another action-packed adventure in an attempt to bring down SPYDER once and for all. Loved it. I've love this entire series, so far. They're quick, humorous reads. 

60. Firefly Forest by Robyn Frampton and Mike Heath - I confess, I bought this book from the $1.25 store (it used to be the dollar store) specifically for the gorgeous photographs, which I plan to rip up and use in collaging. But, I had to read it, of course, before dismantling it. Firefly Forest is a wistful story about imagination by a woman who created a miniature village in the forested area of a Kansas City park. Intrigued, people began to visit just to see the miniature doors and scenes that she was installing and eventually a documentary was made about the village in the forest. The text, I am sorry to say, was not great. I found it choppy and weird, though imaginative. It's the photos that really turn me on. This magical little creation of the author's is definitely something I'd like to see in person. 

61. The Backward Season (Wishing Day #3) by Lauren Miracle - It's not unusual for me to read a series book out of order and I also found The Backward Season in the $1.25 store. In the first two books, sisters Natasha and Darya have made wishes on their "Wishing Day", which occurs a few months after a girl's 15th birthday in their small town. Now, it's Ava's turn and her goal is to restore her mother's childhood friend, Emily, to the picture. Emily went missing after her best friend Klara made a selfish wish. Klara is mother to the three girls (Ava is the youngest) and she has suffered depression and doubt since her best friend disappeared, leading her to abandon the family. Can Ava undo the damage? I thought the author did a good job of describing what had happened in the first 2 books, although there was one character whose mysterious story didn't make sense to me till the end. I did have one problem with the storyline that confused me enough that I chose not to rate the book, but I finished it so it earns at least an average rating, if not better. It's nicely wrapped up and I'm sure anyone who has read the first two will enjoy it. 

62. Kill All Your Darlings by David Bell - When a professor publishes a novel by a student who disappeared just after turning it in as her thesis, it blows up his life. The novel describes details of a real-life murder scene that were never released by the police. And, the missing student is alive and well but fears for her life. Why? Who would want to kill her, too? Kind of predictable and I had an issue with the story. Why would someone who is trying to stay in the background because she fears for her life dye her hair "an unnatural shade of red" so that she stood out in a crowd? So, not a favorite but I enjoyed it enough to finish. 

May was not a great month for quantity and I only loved a few of the books I read, so I'm hoping June will be a lot better. I have to say that I am grateful once again for the middle grade books that saved me from a slump. I read the beginnings of several books and then just sputtered out, including 200 pages of The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, which I was enjoying till that point and then just suddenly couldn't talk myself into reading. Weird! It's memorable enough that I think I could pick it up again at any time with no problem so I've left the bookmark in place. I didn't last as long in the other books I abandoned, all of which I will eventually read but just wasn't in the right mood to read at the time. Fortunately, as I said, when I picked up the Spy School book, it saved me and my urge to read was restored. 

TL;DR - Favorite of the month is Spring by Ali Smith because it was the most meaningful story and the one that most thoroughly swept me away. Fuzz was the one I prattled on about the most. The Stranger was the one I most wanted to discuss. The Spy School and Spy x Family books were terrific, as always. And, I enjoyed most everything else enough to finish. Except, perhaps, Firefly Forest — and I only disliked the text, in that case; I loved the photos. 

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  1. I think I tried reading The Stranger once, and didn't get very far. I did really like A River Runs Through It- which surprised me. Had tried it years ago and it didn't work for me then, glad I kept my copy to try again. And I really really want to read Fuzz. It sounds like just my kind of book- and I haven't read any Mary Roach yet (though she keeps coming up on my TBR)! Sounds like you had a pretty good reading month, all said.

    1. Anonymous12:05 PM

      Ugh, it's Bookfool but they're not letting me comment as myself, sorry. The Stranger is one that I found a little dry, at times, as was The Plague. Just a function of the time in which it was written or the translation, I think, but I thought it was a good one for discussion. It might just not be for you, Jeane. Same with A River Runs Through It -- sometimes a little tiresome, sometimes brilliant. I'm glad you enjoyed it the second time! Fuzz was my first by Mary Roach. I was not ever particularly interested in any of her other books but I enjoyed this one because *animals*. Even badly behaved, I like reading about them. It was fascinating. I guess I had a decent month. Certainly not a great one but there were several that I really enjoyed.


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