Recent Reads and Recs: July 2012 Edition

Brief thoughts on books you may or may not want to explore on your own.

ADULT NONFICTION

Bossypants, by Tina Fey cover art BossyPants

I’m not a huge non-fiction reader at all, and increasingly less so if the non-fiction book in question is a memoir. Not that Fey’s book quite falls squarely into this category, but I’d say most of it does. I’d heard good things about it and it is an entertaining read overall. She delves into her childhood and early years as an improv comedian and probably the most fun part of the book to me was her description of her time with a traveling improv show, The Second City. Good stories, really fun and interesting improv tips, and the way it’s written, I’d bet those were her most enjoyable years in “the business”.

There were times I felt she worked too hard to try to show how supportive she was of diversity, and by doing so, demonstrated to me that she wasn’t quite there yet and sometimes her advice to women, while sound, still felt like it was coming from someone successful without having fully convinced me that she once upon a time hadn’t been successful. Many good anecdotes about SNL and as a celebrity-authored book, it’s pretty decent.

 

ADULT FICTION

cover art Bright's PassageBright’s Passage, by Josh Ritter

I happened upon this book through an unusual route (at least for me). Josh Ritter is a singer/songwriter and I think I downloaded some free songs of his quite a while back soon after I started doing the whole NoiseTrade thing. Once you download that free music, you automatically get added to the musician’s mailing list, if s/he/they have one. I received an email that had Ritter’s first chapter of his novel available for download, so of course I did that, but never ended up getting around to reading it. It wasn’t until later that I made the connection between Ritter as author and Ritter as songwriter.

Now that you have that little background story that you probably didn’t care about… the story follows a man (Henry Bright) who has recently lost his wife after the birth of their child. He goes on a journey based upon his unique relationship with an angel. Unique because the angel speaks to him through his horse. Yes, that might be where you say, “no thank you” and I wouldn’t blame you because it is a little strange. The antagonist is the father of Henry’s deceased wife and the father is hunting Henry down in order to take his son away. The father has two other sons and they fall into a “dumb and mean” trope, but Henry’s journey and thought process is fairly interesting and the book is at least written well, even if not plotted equally so.

Silver Sparrow, by Tayari Jones cover art Silver Sparrow

I loved this book. The first line: “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.” This story primarily tracks the life of Dana, who is the daughter of James’ second, illegitimate marriage. Narrated in first person, we get Dana’s life as being the “secret” daughter. Probably the only main problem I had with this book was how the relationship between James and Dana’s mother began, but beyond that, the circumstances that surround them gave me a sympathetic view of a situation that kind of makes me frustrated at the same time – which can be a really effective combination in a novel. Jones gives credibility to the idea of James having one family, but being able to support a second one as well. I think part of the believability is that James does not actually live with Dana and her mother, nor does he even ever spend the night – which nicely goes against what we see on TV, even if those television scenarios might actually exist.

A little over halfway through the novel we get a perspective shift when the narration comes from the other daughter. The expected climax occurs in a way that I didn’t expect, and I really liked that as well as the entire aftermath. I nearly cried for one of the characters, but I will not tell you which one in the hopes that you will read it and tell me your thoughts. It’s a wonderfully written book.

YOUNG ADULT/CHILDREN’S FICTION

cover art The Difference Between You and MeThe Difference Between You and Me, by Madeleine George

This story is about being true to yourself and those you love. Yes, of course that is one of the most common themes of Young Adult literature, but some overdo it or repeat themselves, and others, like this one, find the unique view.

Narration shifts among three different characters, but I would still say that ultimately the primary character is Jesse, who is in love with a classmate, but they meet clandestinely as Emily is unwilling to break up with her boyfriend and also reveal that she is interested in a girl. So it’s a little bit of a romance, but what really ends up driving the plot is the political controversy that sets Jesse and Emily more dramatically on opposite sides. On one hand, I think the political message was potentially too overpowering for simply showing that Jesse needed to follow what she believed in to be fully herself. On the other hand, I kind of liked the veiled political statement made against “StarMart” (haha!) and the idea that this is what charged her and helped her see the bigger picture in her life.

And that is my month.

Currently I am reading A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin.

More importantly: what are YOU reading? What should I be reading next?

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3 Responses to Recent Reads and Recs: July 2012 Edition

  1. I am so much more interested in what you’re currently reading ;). I actually listened to “Bossypants” as an audio book on our holiday drive to Michigan- I think it’s the perfect fit for that format. I’d never heard of Silver Sparrow, but now I’m going to give it a shot.

    I think you should continue reading the Game of Thrones series next, but if you need a break, you might want to try “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. It’s a little insane, but I found the characters fascinating…and creepy.

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  2. ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) says:

    Jury’s still out on GoT… I’m not very far, yet.

    I’ve also seen a couple of mixed reviews for Gone Girl… however, the same person who really didn’t like Gone Girl also didn’t like The Art of Fielding at all, either, and I liked that one a lot. So, I’ll go with your rec instead. 😉

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