Recent Reads and Recs: October 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.

Just the sheer number of books in this post is a sad reflection of how little reading time I had this month. Or maybe it’s just that I chose the wrong books to read for this busy month. Where we are in life and what is going on around us at the time impacts our view of what we read, doesn’t it? It’s a useful information to have for authors and would-be-authors like me.


Life After Life cover Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

This was my first Atkinson novel and if her others are similar, I will wait until I have a lot more time to kill before tackling any of them because while I mostly enjoyed this novel, it was overlong. It’s a really interesting concept: a woman keeps reliving her life – getting re-born – in order to get things right. At the beginning of the novel we are led to believe that the part to “get right” is perhaps ridding the world of Hitler, before he can lead the Third Reich. Going along, it actually becomes difficult to determine the true purpose of her continual re-birth.

The interesting part is the exploration of “what if?” What if you somehow knew that when your housekeeper goes to town one day that she’ll contract the Spanish flu and subsequently spread it to the family she lives with? Ursula, ends up feeling premonitions of dangerous choices, even if she doesn’t know exactly why and subsequently alters the course of hers and others’ lives. With each new life I wondered, what is the key factor that needed to be preserved in this one?

It is with this curiosity that kept me reading, but also the part that kept the novel too long. I was worried that the payoff in the end would not be worth the exploration of each life (sometimes her life was shortened by some different event, so you don’t have to live through as many repeat years as you might think). There were some overlayers of characters, but ultimately, I wanted to discover important connections with characters who repeated and characters that entered the story anew with new lives. This didn’t really happen, and I feel like this was a lost opportunity where Atkinson chose to focus on the mundane rather than the possible extraordinary.

The Silent Wife, by A.S.A Harrison The Silent Wife cover

Along the veins of Gone Girl, this novel is quieter and some of the intrigue lies in the focus on the mundane within Jodi and Todd’s lives. Jodi and Todd, common-law husband and wife, have managed to stay together for 20 years in spite of Todd’s continual infidelities and Jodi’s willingness to keep looking the other way, finally break up when Todd finds out he’s going to be a father with one of his young affairs. The book is told in alternating viewpoints with Jodi progressing calmly, methodically – unflappable —  and Todd beginning to fall apart at the seams.

The description of this book makes it sound far more exciting than it actually is, but it is a short, quick read that I found interesting to try to determine what Jodi would actually decide to do in the end.



fangirl Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

This is Rowell’s best book yet. (BTW, she has been pretty seamless in her ability to move from YA, to adult, to NA. The woman’s got talent.) Coming off of two more difficult reads made this book just that more refreshing. If you are not familiar with New Adult, it is an emerging genre that focuses on characters who are past the adolescent stage, but not deep into fully mature adults.

In this book, Cath is a college freshman whose twin sister has opted out of rooming with her in an effort to branch out and make new friends. Cath is both introverted and shy with anxiety. She feels most comfortable in her fanfiction world of Simon Snow, a popular character in a book series about magic. For Cath’s first year in college, she is trying to navigate the waters in becoming more social (and developing a romantic relationship with her roommate’s best friend, Levi, who is a lovely character, by the way) while her sister, Wren is drowning in those same waters as she goes too far.

This book has great dialogue, realistic situations, and fantastic characters.



Songs of Willow Frost, by Jamie Ford 

This novel follows the story of William Eng. William is a 12-year old boy in an orphanage who discovers his mother while on a field trip to a show. He finds her and starts to piece together a history of his mother, Liu Song (stage name of Willow Frost), and why he ended up in an orphanage.

I read half of this book before finally giving up. I felt like it spent a lot of time spinning its wheels and unlike his previous novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet where there were equal mixes of bitter and sweet throughout, this one had so far been almost all bitter. The protagonist’s thoughts and feelings felt a bit repetitive, and the issues of sexual child abuse that came up felt wrong in how they were treated. The loss of one of the important characters in the first half at the time seemed confusing, though I suppose it could work as a pivotal moment for later events and perhaps there is a connection that comes again later in the novel. I wanted to like this novel based upon Ford’s first work, but I needed more forward motion and hope at the time I was reading it. It’s possible I’ll come back to this one again one day to give it another go.


Bottom-line recs of “must-reads”: Fangirl

Currently I am reading Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu

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: October 2013 Edition

  1. Jen (@JSQ79) says:

    I’m reading Rainbow Rowell’s “Attachments” right now, and while I like it, I’m experiencing the same puzzlement you did about why she sets her books in the time she does. Why the 90’s? Just for the kitsch of the pop culture references? It bugs me, even though it seems like a silly thing to be bothered by. Anyway, Fan Girl was $1.40 in the Kindle store this week, so I got it and look forward to reading it. Always enjoy your Reads & Recs posts!


    • ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) says:

      I know, the time setting is silly to get hung up on, but really, shouldn’t there be a real reason to choose it? At any rate, your $1.40 is a no-brainer for this one. 🙂


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