Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What I was reading: June 2013

I had a week's vacation in June, and oddly, I didn't get nearly as much reading done as I'd anticipated.  That said, the deck has been stained and the blueberry jam I made and put up is delicious, so it wasn't a complete loss!  I did, however, make up for it the rest of the month, and got what I think might be a record amount (for me) of reading accomplished overall. 

Faithless, by Karin Slaughter.  Yes, I'm reading these out of order.  The nice thing is that they do hold up as stand-alone novels quite well.  Here, county coroner Sara Linton and her husband Jeffrey Tolliver stumble over a grave of a woman who was buried alive.  Now they're tracking down what might have happened to her, the case leading to a commune, a cult, and dangerous circumstances for both Sara and Jeffrey.  Slaughter really writes a great, tense narrative.  390 pages

And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini.  You can read my review here.  404 pages

The Egg & I, by Betty MacDonald.  After reading MacDonald's The Plague & I, I had to pick up her other work for adults.  At age twenty, MacDonald married a marine and moved to a chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.  At the time (1927), this part of the country was essentially considered wild American frontier, and our heroine was not exactly prepared for the rigors of life with no running water or electricity, miles from her nearest neighbor.  And yet, she related her experiences with a singular humor that is hugely entertaining.  288 pages

Family Pictures, by Jane Green.  Okay, I loved some of Green's earlier work.  Jemima J. was very entertaining, as was BookendsThe Beach House had some really sweet moments and great characters.  But for me, Family Pictures fell short.  A young widow with a toddler, Sylvie meets Mark by chance and allows herself to fall in love again.  Fast forward eleven years of marriage and a life built together in California, and now Mark has disappeared, the first of several family crises that bring Sylvie's happy life crashing down.  Then we find that Mark has a second family, or rather, Sylvie and her daughter are Mark's second family.  His other family, living in Connecticut, is also in for the same shock--Mark has left them, too.  Perhaps it was the reader of the audio version, but I was really put off by the transition and the second set of characters who I found immediately unlikeable from the beginning.  I just didn't find it believable, and thought the dialog was very clunky in places.  Not one I can recommend, I'm afraid.  352 pages

Dad is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan.  I'm a fan of Jim Gaffigan's standup comedy ("Hot Pockeeeeeets!").  I thought his book, a collection of essays about being a father of five in today's world, would be funny, too, regardless of not being a parent myself and therefore not being part of the target demographic.  I found some of it amusing, and a lot of it terrifying.  He's got some great insight on modern parenting, but it wasn't as entertaining as I 'd hoped it would be.  That could just be me, though.  274 pages

Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline.  Foster-kid Molly is having a rough time.  Her foster parents don't understand her at all, her boyfriend's mom doesn't like her, and she has community service hours to complete in order to stay out of juvie.  She finds an opportunity to complete her service hours helping an elderly woman, Vivian, sort through an attic-full of boxes...and the memories that go with them, all the way back to Vivian's childhood in Ireland.  As Molly and Vivian spend more time together, they become the unlikeliest of friends, and the answer to one another's problems.  This was such a great read--my only disappointment was that the last fifty pages or so felt rushed.  I look forward to more from Kline, though.  278 pages

Fallen, by Karin Slaughter.  I know, I know.  But I'm not even remotely bored with her work, and they're such fast reads, I can usually knock one out in a couple of evenings.  Faith Mitchell owes a lot to her mother, but if blood is thicker than water, Faith is going to find out just how far she'll go for family.  She returns from a training session to find her mother missing and a hostage situation in progress in her mother's home.  Unwilling to wait for backup, Faith takes out the immediate danger, only to find that she'll have to cross the thin blue line and bring up buried secrets from the past in order to save her mother.  Very, very well done.  387 pages

The World's Strongest Librarian, by Josh Hanagarne.  If you're keeping track, this makes three (THREE!) non-fiction titles in a single month.  Crazy-talk.  Hanagarne is officially my hero.  He's a librarian at the Salt Lake City Public Library.  He's a power-lifter.  He's a dad.  He also grew up Mormon and happens to have Tourette Syndrome.  He has overcome circumstances that would make lesser humans give up and go back to bed.  Told with wit, candor, and a down-to-earth sweetness, Hanagarne's story is hugely inspiring.  Highly recommended.  291 pages

The Hypnotist, by Lars Kepler.  This was a re-read for me, but I must say, I definitely prefer this one in print--the audio version is not a particularly strong one, in my humble opinion.  In any case, the sole survivor of a gruesome attack on a family says, under hypnosis, that he's the one who committed the crime.  Until after the hypnosis session, when he begins blaming the hypnotist for planting the thought in his mind.  So what really happened?  I love Joona Linna--he reminds me, for some reason, a bit of Harry Hole in the Jo Nesbo novels.  503 pages

Always Watching, by Chevy Stevens.  Psychiatrist Nadine Lavoie considers it her life's work to help others manage their demons, even though her own demons often seem quite unmanageable.  When a distraught young woman, Heather Simeon, is brought into the lockdown ward after a suicide attempt, she becomes Nadine's patient, only to find that their stories had a number of similarities.  Even as she digs deeper, Nadine must confront long-suppressed memories and dangers she never thought would follow her into her present.  Gripping--Stevens is one I always look forward too.  340 pages

Atonement, by Ian McEwan.  This is my book club's selection for our July meeting, and I was sort of surprised I'd never read it.  It is sort of perfect for this time of year, as the beginning of the tale takes place on a sweltering day in July of 1935.  Thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment's flirtation between her older sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner, a servant of the estate and Cecilia's childhood friend.  Lacking the grasp of adult motives in this tableau, Briony reacts in a way that will echo for decades within the family.  McEwan writes beautifully and evokes scenes with such luxurious clarity, his work is a pleasure to read.  351 pages

June Totals:
11 titles
3,858 pages

Year-to-date Totals:
 46/75 titles= 61%
17,402/35,000 pages = 50%

Looks like I'm right on target, as I'm half-way through the challenge.  Hope I can keep it up!

Everyone, enjoy your Independence Days safely and I'll be back next week with fiction titles of note being published in August.  Happy Reading!

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