The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell (3 stars)
This is a very well-written but ultimately not very good story. By that, I mean that Woodrell’s writing is gorgeous — his descriptions of small town Missouri, his flashbacks to the 1920s — but the central mystery (who caused an explosion at a dance hall in 1929) doesn’t do much to grip the reader. I picked this up solely because I loved Winter’s Bone, but it definitely did not live up to my expectations.
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (2 stars)
This was some sappy shit, y’all. Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was slightly sappy, but saved by a grumpy main character. The main character here is a bratty teenager, who has gone to “Elsewhere” — an afterlife where people age backwards before being sent back to Earth as babies. The world building is interesting enough, but Liz’s actual story bored me to tears.
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (4 stars)
This beautiful story, written by the author of Orphan Train, centers around an actual painting called Christina’s World. Kline creates a whole backstory for the painting, and does an excellent job of mixing fact and fiction. I would recommend reading up on the painting before reading the book (Kline has some information at the end of the novel). I found myself amazed at how much of what she wrote turned out to be true.
SeinLanguage by Jerry Seinfeld (4 stars)
Yeah, okay, this is a 22 year old book that I’ve read enough to have it memorized (even those its been a decade since I picked it up). It carries a lot of the same jokes as on the show, and bits of it are repeated verbatim from his stand-up. But it’s still freaking funny, and even more impressive if you consider how much has happened since that takes so directly from it.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson (5 stars)
First of all, I fully admit to only understanding about 30% of this, and I’m certain I could go back and reread it and still be confused by half the topics. But it’s fascinating, educational, and Tyson’s writing (as always) deftly combines knowledge and humor.
The Fugitive by J.M. Dillard (2 stars)
I spent 25 cents on this at a book sale, and it was almost worth it. It’s a novelization of movie, not the novel the movie was based on (do your research, even at a rummage sale!) and as such, follows the movie almost scene for scene. The writing is decent, but nothing special. Mostly it just made me want to re-watch the movie, although reading the book took about the same amount of time.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (4 stars)
I liked this way more than I expected to, having never seen the movie because it looked like sentimental schlock. The book definitely has its schlocky moments, but Gilbert’s examination of herself after her marriage ends in an extremely acrimonious divorce caught me at the right time in my own life. While I’m not much for meditation and prayer, I wholeheartedly enjoyed the section about Italy, and found enough in the other two sections to keep myself intrigued.
In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi (4 stars)
I was very impressed by this exploration of Faludi’s into her estranged father, who had a sex change in his 50s, and how she connected it to the history of Hungary (his native home). There’s a lot more than just personal history contained within this story of a family. There’s Hungarian history, its treatment of outsiders throughout the decades of Faludi’s father’s life, as well as various interviews concerning sexual reassignment surgery. It’s a very informative and interesting book, and the writing captures it well.
Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison (4 stars)
This was really fascinating. Robison always knew he was a little different — unable to connect with other kids, much more interested in taking things apart than making friends — but he never even heard the word “Asperger’s” until he was in his 40s. Instead, he made an excellent life for himself in his own way — fixing and creating sound equipment for bands like KISS, marrying a woman he refers to as “Unit Two”, and working as an engineer for a toy company. The book gives some insight into how Robison views the world, but it’s also an excellent autobiography of a very intelligent and interesting man. P.S. — if the name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the older brother who occasionally bounces into Augusten Burroughs’s life in Running with Scissors.
The Best Awful (Suzanne Vale #2) by Carrie Fisher (3 stars)
The sequel to Postcards from the Edge, The Best Awful brings back Suzanne Vale and follows her through a divorce from her gay husband, a manic-depressive breakdown, and her path to recovery (mostly). It’s not Fisher’s greatest writing — I think her non-fiction will always beat out her fiction — but as a person with manic tendencies, some of it felt very familiar. If you do read it, get the audio version read by the author. It will bring a tear to your eye to hear her voice, and then she’ll make you laugh out loud.
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda (2 stars)
Truth time: I haven’t been posting reviews because I’m working from home now, and so when I get bored, I do laundry instead of screwing around on the internet. I’m also reading less because I’m not reading on my browser at work or listening to audiobooks during my 2 hours in the car every day. But I have still been reading, and listening to audiobooks while I run, and I am catching up on my reviews SOLELY TO BITCH ABOUT THIS BOOK.
This book contains such a good story — a girl went missing 10 years ago in Nicolette’s hometown. Shortly after, Nicolette left and reinvented herself. Now she’s back home to deal with her aging, demented father and another girl has gone missing — one who saw something that night 10 years ago. There’s a good cast of characters, lots of local color, so many possible suspects and a very unreliable narrator. BUT the author chooses to tell the story backwards, skipping 14 days into the future after the 2nd girl goes missing, and then backing up day by day. It’s confusing as hell, for one thing, but it also just does not make sense in a lot of way. Characters will discover something, then we find out two days prior that something even more important came up first but gets revealed later. It annoyed the shit out of me, especially since the mystery had such potential, and I really just wanted to let y’all know about my feelings.
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (4 stars)
This was a good murder mystery from the author of The Woman in Cabin 10 (also a good read). Nora gets invited out to a “hen party” in the woods for a friend she hasn’t seen in years. Then someone dies. The story alternates between Nora waking up injured in a hospital bed with no memories, and the time spent at the party. Nice and twisty, and kept me guessing til the end.
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer (5 stars)
I read this when it first came out last year, and loved it. This time I listened to the audio version, and highly recommend you do the same. I love Amy Schumer — her filthy sense of humor and her balls-out attitude towards life — but this book gives the reader such an in-depth view of her mind and personality. A view that barely lines up with her public persona, and one that makes me love her all the more.
Wine. All the Time.: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking by Marissa A. Ross (3 stars)
This was a bit more in depth than I really expected — I think I thought it would be a memoir with drinking tips (think Hannah Hart), not an actual guide to wine. But it’s interesting, even to someone who mainly sticks to Cupcake Moscato, and the writing is fun. It would make an excellent gift to the slightly more snobby than I am but not super snobby wine drinker in your life.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (5 stars)
Guys, this was so good. It reminded me so much of A Man Called Ove — sad but funny and starring someone who really needs a hug. We know right away that Eleanor Oliphant is a little different, but she’s living her life and seems to be coping okay. Then we get glimpses into her past, small flashes that make us realize just how much she’s been through, and how that’s formed the person that she is. It’s so sad, but tempered wonderfully by Eleanor’s unintentional humor. And it has an excellent ending. Go read it!