Playing catch up for my 78 book project

Well, as I said last week, reading has become an almost obsessive desire for me in the last few weeks.  I just can’t get enough.  As I told Aaron and then later, Rebecca and Amy, I want to make sweet love to books.  This month, I kind of did.

ImagedbcgiI’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again.  I’m a big fan of Rebecca Eckler‘s.  I have been for years.  Honestly, I had kind of forgotten that her new book was already out.  That was until I saw a copy on display at the Chapters we went to in Victoria.  I grabbed it then and had a hard time putting it down over the next couple of days.  Wiped: life with a pint-size dictator is the follow up to Eckler’s first book, Knocked Up.  This time, she has written about the first two years of life with a baby.   It’s pretty funny all around, but also raw and touching.  Eckler does a great job of explaining how she felt while suffering from postpartum depression and her struggles to manage it.  I dig her writing style and she makes me laugh.  Of course, those are two very favourable attributes in an authour.  She lives a bit of a fantasy life with a nanny and extended vacations and that just contributes to making this a really fun read.

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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards is a whole other story.  What is the big deal about this book???  I’ve heard so many people talking about it I just blindly picked up a copy a few months back.  I couldn’t get through it fast enough and yet, it felt like it took me forever.  (Actually, it kind of did.)  The story is about a set of twins born to a doctor and his wife, the son raised by the couple, the Down Syndrome daughter given away at birth without the mother’s consent (doc told her she was dead) to the lonely, single nurse present in the room.  I suppose the story is supposed to illustrate the evolution of a family, or rather two, but it just wasn’t really convincing for me.  I didn’t buy it, no characters inspired any interest and for the most part, the entire book just seemed a little flat.  I didn’t even bother reading the book club questions at the back because there just wasn’t enough substance in that book to have me thinking about anything.

41a0sqz9tjl_aa240_ Jane’s mom whispered to me about I Like It Like That by Claire Calman while we were at Jane’s wedding last year.  For some reason it’s taken me this long to get to it, but it was definitely worth the wait.  Georgia’s spent her life being responsible, reliable and predictable.  With a flake for a sister and a family that depends on her, she has become the replacement for the mother she lost years and years before.  Engaged and looking forward to her stable new life with Stephen "with a ph," everything is going along smoothly when she, quite literally, runs into Leo, a new neighbour in the building where she lives and works.  A reluctant friendship is born and Leo really isn’t who Georgia first assumed he was and knowing him truly changes her life for the better.  She learns tolerance and to roll with it.  She learns to accept her life for what it is and to be able to say that it may not be perfect, but "I like it like that."

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The winner of the best cover ever goes to Left Bank by Kate Muir.  Courtney flaunted it in front of me when she came over one day a couple months ago.  She had the paperback.  I found it at the library this month and picked it up.  In a subsequent visit on the same day, I found the hardcover version and it was just as cool.  Isn’t it stupid that I checked out BOTH copies simply because I loved the way they looked???  Whatever.  (The photo here is the hardcover book.)  Courtney hated it.  I didn’t.  In fact, it’s one of the better books I’ve read this year.  Her characters were great and she captured the ways of the French perfectly.  It made me long to be back in Paris not only because I miss the people, but also because she did such a great job in painting the scene.  That is was set in the 7th, where I was based during my trip, was also endearing to me.   It’s been a while since I’ve read any Paris lit, so it was a nice way to get back into it.  I used to consider Le Divorce my favourite novel set in the city of light, but Left Bank exceeded that with ease.

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Okay, I’ll admit, I’m cynical.  And marriage just sets me off.  It’s just me.  After I started reading this book on the way home from Portland, I couldn’t resist sharing a few precious paragraphs with Rebecca while we were on the train and the bus even though she has dibs on reading it next.  At times, it just couldn’t wait.  It’s sick how much I enjoyed reading about truly insane brides and their antics in Bad Bridesmaid: Bachelorette Brawls and Taffeta Tantrums – Tales From the Front Lines.  What the hell is it about a stupid wedding that turns a (somewhat) normal woman into a maniac?  I hadn’t even realized how connected to this book I was until I read the prologue.  Siri Agrell, as a journalist for my preferred newspaper had written an article way back, one about being a bad bridesmaid, one whose photos had drawn my mom’s affectionate attention and, in turn, mine.  My mom phoned me and said "You have to see this shirt!  It says ‘Please shut up about your fucking wedding!’"  I thought it was great too.  And Siri Agrell shares plenty of reasons to wear it.  Damn!  No wonder they call them Bridezillas!

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I’d heard a lot about The Birth House by Ami McKay long before I got my hands on a copy.  What I’d read in the media was glowing, but the personal opinions I got were much less so.  Most of my friends had reported that it was a disappointing.  One even said that she’s liked it up until a certain point (that I will have the courtesy she didn’t and not give away here.)  I enjoyed it throughout.  Sure, I didn’t love it, but it was a pleasant enough read that it never lost my interest.  Dora Rare inherits the title of midwife in her small First World War Nova Scotia town and the story details her struggles with her newfound identity, the local townspeople and, in particular, a doctor bound and determined to destroy the reputation and practice of midwifery entirely.  I’d have liked this book to be more about actual births, but I was content with the few that were mentioned and more than intrigued by the use of natural remedies to treat childbearing women.  While I’ve read about the origins of vibrators (yes, vibrators) before, the scene in which Dora concedes to treatment by the menacing doctor for her symptoms of "female hysteria" was fantastic.  The comic effect of her experience and the days after when she succeeds in outsmarting the doctor by finding her own treatment is a highlight of the book.  It had me laughing out loud and sharing the passage with my devoted work husband.  Overall, I found the story predictable.  I had pretty much worked it out very early on, but even as it unfolded exactly as I’d expected, it was still endearing enough to carry on.

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Plum Lovin’.  It was a Stephanie Plum novel.  What else can I say?  Honestly, there are few people I’d refer to Janet Evanovich novels.  Not because they’re not enjoyable, but because they’re lighter than light.  Yeah, they’re fun to read and they’re good for many laughs, but really, they’re just so empty.  She’s a bounty hunter for crying out loud and a really bad one at that.  If you’re not familiar, start from the beginning.  If you are, well, you could live without this between the numbers books as far as I’m concerned.  Yeah, it’s nice to have something to tide me over until the next full length story, but I didn’t need something that bad and really, you might as well wait.  Watered down Stephanie Plum is just not worth it.  It’s quite obvious that this was written as filler and really just seemed too pointless to bother.  Or maybe it was just the lack of Morelli (yeah, you heard it!) that left me feeling unsatisfied.

Imagedb1It took me until I was about ten pages into Stop That Girl by Elizabeth McKenzie to start to feel like I’d read it before, ten more pages to realize that I had.  It wasn’t as though I remembered exactly what would happen, but I could recall enough to keep me just ahead in the story than the page number reflected.  I considered ditching it instead of reading it again, my thinking that if I couldn’t remember reading it the first time then it likely wasn’t worth reading a second.  I think I was wrong and I’m glad I didn’t put it down.  I’m actually surprised I’d forgotten it and I’d be curious to go back and read something about what I’d thought of it the first time.  (I kind of wonder if I’d had to put it down before I was completely finished because the ending was vaguely new to me, I think.)  A novel told in stories, the life of Ann Ransom is neatly tied together beginning in childhood and carrying through to what I guess was his mid-thirties.  I really struggled with how to sing its praises while truly capturing its spirit.  Eventually, I gave up and decided to steal this from the jacket because it really covers it quite eloquently.  "In these keenly funny, highly original stories, Ann and the people around her are forced to reassess their complex relationships and, along the way, find happiness on the brink of calamity.  Stop That Girl is a brilliant examination of the exigencies of love and the fragile fabric of family, and heralds the emergence of a remarkable new voice in fiction."  True and true.

 

Past month’s reading:

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6 Responses to “Playing catch up for my 78 book project”

  1. adele/toast Says:

    I haven’t read any of these but am loving your reviews!!

  2. Say Rah! Says:

    no morelli? what the hell? is it ranger then? you can tell me, as i won’t likely read this. i’ll stick to the #’s.

  3. Vegas Princess Says:

    I am definately checking some of those out, they sound great. I read a book about midwifery once, actually I believe it was called “Midwife,” and it was really good, so I am anxious to read “Birth House” to compare.

  4. dawnmarie Says:

    1. Should I read “Bad Bridesmaid” in order to avoid becoming a bridezilla? We’re not doing most of our planning until august though. . . (And my wedding won’t be stupid 🙂 )

    2. No Morelli? Then it’s not a story. I haven’t read any of them since about #8, so I don’t even know what number we’re up to…

  5. Courtney Says:

    I could have sworn I commented on this already. I must have just thought it. How odd.

    I love Bridezilla stories. My wedding was too small to have real issues, thank god. I should pick up that book.

    The Between The Numbers books drive me crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I still read them, but they’re quite poor compared to the other ones that are so damn fluffy, but so incredibly entertaining.

    And I didn’t hate Left Bank, I just didn’t enjoy it. I’d rather look at the cover than reread it. 🙂

    Birth House… I’d have given it a 7/10, I think. Good, but I expected more.

  6. Jane Says:

    I am currently reading “The Glass House” by Jeannette Walls. It is very entertaining and strangely it’s a memoir, not fiction. I think you’d enjoy it. I finished “Losing Julia” on my trip and I liked that too. It has made me much more sensitive to the feelings of older people.

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