Recent Reads and Recs: July 2013 Edition

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

Care to chat with me more about these books or others? Leave a comment or find me on Twitter – @ProfeJMarie.

ADULT FICTION

Me, Myself, and Why? cover Me, Myself, and Why?, by Mary Janice Davidson

This story wins for one of the most interesting narrative point of view I’ve read in quite a while. The narrator is Cadence – and Shiro – and Adrienne, three personalities in a single mind. Davidson creates a world where the FBI has a branch called BOFFO (Bureau of False Flags Ops) in which investigators all fall into the fringe community of having issues with mental health. The main character has Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) and her department helps solve serial killer cases, citing that their mental health issues gives them unique talents to examine the unique cases.

This book is part of a trilogy, and as a novel that has a concept that is just getting it’s feet wet, Davidson does a decent job of handling the complicated character narration. There were many other aspects to the writing and plotline that I was not keen on, but I decided to try out the second book, Yours, Mine, and Ours, to see if some of those issues would resolve. Not too much, and I ended up skimming it for the parts I was most interested in. If you were to ask me, “so, should I read it or not?” I’d say it’s worth a read for the unusual concept – it’s not an intense read; rather, it is quite a light and amusing one that does a good job of covering the concept of Dissociative Identity Disorder even if the rest of the plot does not quite hit the mark.

 

The Glass Wives, by Amy Sue Nathan The Glass Wives cover

The title is a play on words, with “Glass” being the last name of two women who were married to the same man. The book opens to a Shiva of the man – at the home of the current wife. Both women have children by him and for different reasons, financial for ex-wife (Evie) and comfort for the widow (Nicole), decide to live all together. The whole scenario with the two separate, yet connected families presented an awkward tone that carried over well. The characterization of Evie and Nicole felt muddled, though – I felt like I had a better handle on Evie’s best friends than I did on Evie herself, who is the protagonist of the story. However, as the story progressed into the final act, the plot helped overcome some of these difficulties as Nicole’s secret fight to take away Evie’s insurance money and a twist with one of Evie’s friends came into play and breathed purpose back into the story. The novel has a great concept in spite of the issues of execution that take a while to hit its stride.

  

Attachments cover Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell

This was an interesting love story of sorts. There is a review on Goodreads where the reviewer writes that it is a story “…about a man falling in love in a very inappropriate way.” So true! This is probably why I maintained some reservations with it for most of the story. Lincoln is an IT guy in his late 20s/very early 30s who has the night shift where his primary job is to read through flagged email messages and file reports about any that deserve the flags for inappropriate use of office email. As such, he becomes attached to two women – one especially – whose messages frequently get flagged, but he has become so engrossed in their conversations, he fails to actually report them.

In some ways I like Lincoln, but he’s kind of a creeper, right? I mean, he confesses that he knows what he’s doing is wrong and that he could never actually meet these two women face-to-face because of his own inappropriate use of office email. There’s also a lot of reference to him still hurting from a break-up that occurred 10 years prior – in his freshman year of college. This might feel like something sympathetic, but the break up was of an ordinary nature. Plus he’s living at home and a perpetual degree-seeker. I guess what ended up selling it for me was Lincoln’s obviously kind nature and how his side of the narrative alternates with the email format of the other two employees.

 

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer The Interestings cover

This novel tells a sprawling story of six characters who meet at a summer camp and how their lives play out with and without each other. At camp, they decided to call themselves “The Interestings” as they believed themselves to be a collection of prodigies. Probably only two of them had any real gifts, and it is through Jules’s point of view that we get this information. Jules, in fact, gives us most of her own story and that of four other members of the group. Creativity, the basis of their group, has given way for some into practicality and Jules, especially, spends a lot of time trying to determine satisfaction and success based upon those choices. The story is told from the point of view of three out of the six friends, which poses and interesting literary question for a book club. 😀 Why did Wolitzer choose these three and not any of the others?

For my part, I enjoyed many parts of this book, but often found myself wondering at the primary direction of the story, expecting a greater collision of foreshadowed events than actually occurred. This book borders on my personal “I’m too stupid to read literary fiction” realm – which means I liked it, but it was a bit long and had me searching too hard for the purpose at times.

 

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Darius and Twig cover Darius & Twig, by Walter Dean Myers

I am a fan of the Myers books I’ve read – specifically Monster and Slam. This one is a little different than those, but in a good way. This quote, from one of the characters, (Darius) sums it up nicely, I think:

“She thinks I don’t want to write about black stuff,” I said. “But the truth is that I don’t want to write about the stuff that she thinks is black. White people are always telling you what your life is about and then saying you should write about it.”

This book tracks the friendship between two gifted young men – one in writing the other in running. They both simply want to use their gifts to feel good about themselves, but also realize that if it can help them in the future with attending college, then they will try to navigate around that. What I love about this story is the true friendship between Darius and Twig. They know each other and root for each other in all the ways they know makes each other happy. It’s a short, quick, enjoyable read.

 

MIDDLE GRADE FICTION 

Better Nate Than Ever, by Tim Federle Better Nate Than Never cover

Nate, an “almost” 14-year old, decides to audition for a New York Broadway musical production of E.T., but to do so, he must sneak away from his hometown in Pennsylvania to do it. Understandably, this is the basis for the underlying conflict driving the plot of a young, misunderstood boy who is simply trying to find a place where he can feel free to be himself without being teased or bullied. While at the audition, we get a fun, first-person narrative of a very young and innocent child in a bit over his head, but because he is so new, that is part of what charms his way along in the process.

I enjoyed Nate’s voice in this story and the refreshing take that while New York City is big and can be intimidating, Federle shows off the kindness and authenticity of its inhabitants, too.

 

Bottom-line recs of “must-reads”: In spite of some decent reads, none this month left me feeling or thinking, “oh, that was so good.”

 

Currently I am reading Warriors: Into the Wild, by Erin Hunter – at the long ago request of my son. 😀

 

More importantly: what are YOU reading? What should I be reading next? Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Leave a comment or send me a shout out on Twitter – let’s chat!

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2 Responses to Recent Reads and Recs: July 2013 Edition

  1. I haven’t read any of these, but I don’t feel too bad about that after your reviews :). I might pick up Attachments, as I could totally see myself “eavesdropping” like that. In fact, did I ever tell you my Muppet house story? If not, remind me to do that one day (and be prepared to think less of me). I might check out The Glass Wives because a flaw you mentioned in that book is one I believe is present in my own writing- muddled characterization. Your point about having a better grasp of the protagonist’s best friend than of the protagonist hit home. Oh, and I’ve read a Meg Wolitzer novel- not the one you read, but your thoughts on The Interestings pretty much sum up my thoughts on The Middle. It’s not us. It’s her.

    Like

    • ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) says:

      Well now I already feel better about the Wolitzer novel and look forward to the Muppet house story.

      Re: Attachments – it’s a good read. You’ll enjoy it.

      Like

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