The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain. Reviewed here with a guest post from the author.
U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton. I've been reading this series since my mom introduced me to it in middle or high school. They're good detective stories that are entertaining, yet to-the-point, with no flowery language. The last few books, however, have been getting wordier, with entire paragraphs of information (say the history of a certain city, or why people react certain ways to photographs or memories, yada yada yada) that have no bearing on the plot, and don't add anything to the story. You can look at the first half of the books and tell that they're slimmer and more concise than the later half. It's not a problem to skim these sections since, as I said, they don't affect the story. The book still entertained me and was a quick read. By this point I'm so far in it'd be silly not to finish the alphabet, regardless of the writing style.
Split by Swati Avasthi. A young adult book about a father who abused his family and how they came to escape. Jace, the main character, leaves years after his older brother, but still manages to track him down. They live together and try to get along and get through the childhood they've left behind. Jace struggles to adjust to a new high school and come to terms with the girlfriend he left behind. The book has a good pace of revealing things that happened, and the ending is realistic and not rushed.
The Best of Good by Sara Lewis. Another re-read. Like last month's Baby Plays Around, I've probably read this book once a year since it came out. Also like Baby Plays Around, it's based around music. Good is a bartender who plays guitar in his spare time - like, every second of his spare time. He lives in a one-room apartment and soundproofed a closet so he could sit inside and write and record songs. He rarely tells people that he was the songwriter for a famous band, because no one understands why he willingly left that life behind. He doesn't socialize with his neighbors, doesn't have a girlfriend, and is really only friends with his older sister. Then he hears that his old girlfriend is back in town, and she has a kid who looks exactly like Good. This sets things in motion for Good to try and change his life, and the results are a mix of hilarity and heart-breaking reality.
Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson. This book is kind of like reading a woman's hilarious blog. In fact, that's exactly what it is . Jenny Lawson is the Bloggess, and this is her memoir. She claims it is "mostly true" so her family can deny what they want and no one's reputation will be damaged. The stories are hilarious, and at least one sentence in each will you have you laughing out loud, whether it's how her dinner party conversations focus on getting stabbed in the face by serial killers or how she came to love costumed dead animals, despite her father scarring her by being a taxidermist. My favorite sections have to be: the exchange with her husband about GPS while she was driving around lost in her own town, and sharing bits of her crazy experiences working in an office's HR department. Lawson's sense of humor centers around being incredibly ridiculous and potentially offensive - right up my alley!
This is How by Augusten Burroughs. It's probably not fair of me to review this book, because I'm not a big fan of Burroughs' writing. I've read almost all of his books though, and thought this one looked interesting. I figured it would be a humorous spin on a self-help book, but it turned out to be an incredibly preachy self-help book. I thought Burroughs would use instances from his own life and share how he got through them, and he did… to a point. But the overall tone was condescending, like he knew what was best in every case. There were some good lines, some good lessons, but overall it wasn't what I was expecting, and not worth the read.
Drop Dead Healthy by A. J. Jacobs. I've read Jacobs' The Guinea Pig Diaries and thought it was really funny how he jumps into these experiments, so I knew that his quest to be the healthiest man in the world would be just as funny. It was also very educational, because he drops in facts he learns along the way. Each chapter is a month that he focuses on a different aspect of health - like trying to find the right diet, how to get the best sleep, the best exercise, how to protect your hearing and your memory, etc. He puts a humorous spin on things, but it's also written so it's really easy to understand - there's not too much science, there's not too much opinion. In the cases of diet, for instance, he balances equally between vegetarianism, veganism, and being carnivorous without taking sides. Eventually he does express opinions on what worked for him, but it all seems really fair, not biased. The pictures accompanying each chapter of Jacobs in action are pretty funny, too.
On Writing by Stephen King. I've only read King's Everything's Eventual because I found the few novels I started to be too verbose; they didn't grab my attention in time so I cast them aside. I thought this book would be the same way. The beginning is a little slow going, starting with blips of his childhood that don't really provide an emotional connection. (I did like that the scenes of getting his eardrums punctured reminded me of Roald Dahl's "surgeries" in Boy). Once he got into his experiences with writing, however, I was more interested. I still found the writing to be a little clunky, ironically, and it was hard to relate to some parts that seemed to deal solely with science fiction. It was a good read though, and there were some good tips, some good lines. My favorites:
- " Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's. When it comes to actually pulling this off, the writer is much more fortunate than the filmmaker, who is almost always doomed to show too much."
- "Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up."
24 Girls in 7 Days by Alex Bradley. I've read this a couple times before. It's a really cute young adult novel about a boy, Jack Grammar, who is trying to find a date for the senior prom. His friends write a personal ad for him to put on the school's website, and the response is overwhelming! The friends narrow the list down from hundreds of girls to just twenty-four, whom Jack must go out with in the last 7 days before prom. Parts of this book are laugh-out-loud funny, and overall it is just a great story that reads well and sticks with you once you're done.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I read this book a few years ago, but didn't enjoy it much, and therefore couldn't understand the hype around it. With this re-read, everything clicked. The book is amazing. Melinda is a high school freshman narrating the hell of her first year after everyone thought she called the cops at a party with underage drinking during the previous summer. No one knows the real reason she called the police, and she's not speaking. The tone is darkly humorous and poetic at times, though always straight to the point with no fluff.
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon. The first chapter will hook you immediately. After that, it's a little stop and go. The book spans forty years in several people's lives, but the first few years take up the vast majority of the book. The action isn't necessarily slow, but by the time years start passing, it's a little frustrating that the early years took up so much of the book while the later time is more glossed over. Each chapter is from the point of view of a different character, and because of this, it was harder for me to remember characters' connections or places in life as the years jumped by in bigger increments. At the same time, the story is very compelling and well-written. It deals with handicapped people and their rights throughout the years, though it is fiction so that's not really the focus. The truth is well-balanced with the stories, and there are some emotional moments. The ending was pretty hokey in my opinion, but was satisfying enough.