Recent Reads and Recs: December 2011 Edition

My second installment of reviews that aren’t really reviews, but glimpses into some books I’ve read that might cross your path… and if they don’t, maybe some of them should:


The Untelling, by Tayari JonesThe Untelling

I had read online of great praise for Jones’ earlier novel, Leaving Atlanta, and intended to read that – except my library didn’t have it. But it did have The Untelling, and that worked out just fine for me as I enjoyed it. What I loved best about this book is that the story was unpredictable. Just when I felt sure I knew what a character was going to say or how he or she was going to react, Jones showed me something different. This story gives a snapshot of about 2-3 months of Aria’s life… surrounded by dreams and relationships not quite realized. Her story is framed by tragedy – her father and younger sister were killed in a car accident and while I don’t think the wrap up of this framework carries the punch it could, it definitely helps shape Aria’s character and story. It’s a quiet novel, but a good quiet.

Broken for You, by Stephanie Kallos

Broken for YouI quoted a piece from Kallos’ blog post a while back and in my own blog post about her quote I had joked that I should probably read her stuff if I was going to quote her other wisdom. Turns out my mother-in-law owned one of the books and passed it along. I finally picked it up after a slow start to Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel (The Lacuna – and this will NOT go on the one hand count of unfinished novels because I am too loyal to one of my most favorite authors. Plus, my mother-in-law does assure me that it gets better.). This story brings together a 70-something woman and a 20-something woman along with a few others along the way. They are both broken in their own way. Margaret has lived most of her years on her own in her house of ill-acquired china from WWII, but finds out she has a brain tumor and determines she will no longer live life on her own. Wanda is on a sad search for an old boyfriend that does not want to be found, but she is really searching for the family that abandoned her when she was a young girl.

The most interesting thing about this novel for me is that I had some problems with it… I was never able to get a good handle on Margaret’s character, had a hard time buying into some of the storyline twists, and one character’s backstory was largely unnecessary… but in spite of this, I really liked the book. This is probably not much help to you if you are looking on whether or not to read it, but this is why I’m officially not deeming these monthly posts official reviews.  Haha!


Want to Go Private?, by Sarah Dare Littman

Want to Go Private?When I started reading this one, I believe it didn’t take long for me to tweet the following: “The book I’m reading right now will make you never ever ever again want your kids anywhere near the computer.” And while this is obviously an overstatement, it still says a lot about a book that very realistically takes on the topic of online sexual predators. Instances of situations getting as far as the one reflected in this novel are not near as common as media would have us believe, but the threat still exists. Littman portrays a ninth grade girl who is otherwise known to be intelligent and level-headed, falling into the trap of both revealing too much of herself to an online sexual predator and falling into the false emotional bond that can form in these situations. Abby feels lost in her new high school, misunderstood by her parents, and suddenly feels like her best friend is drifting away from her. All of these factors make it seem easier for her to confide in someone she is sure she will never meet in person, until this person does and says all the things that an uncertain 14-year old wants to hear.

What I most appreciate about this novel was Littman’s approach. She didn’t use an extreme case. She didn’t give an extreme consequence. The whole scenario rang true. Family resolution came through a bit too quickly – but probably at just the right rate for a teen reading it. A full resolution is needed in this kind of story, I think.


And that is my month.

My current read: Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. This came to me as a Christmas present from a very good friend… a year ago. Just now getting to it. Page 175 is where the story finally starts and now that the story has started, I will continue to read it. I would anyway. I mean, if you read my last post you already know that a book has to be REALLY bad or something before I will set it aside completely. And all I have to say about this book so far is that with 175 pages of backstory that does a whole lot of telling not showing, Franzen is proving to me that once you’ve sold one novel (or 2 or 3), you can get away with that kind of writing in your subsequent novels. Good to know. 😉  I’m assuming the rest will prove worth it.

What are you reading? What should I be reading next?

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