"It is raining. I am tempted to write a poem. But I remember what it said on one rejection slip... After a heavy rainfall, poems entitled RAIN pour in from across the nation."
-The Journals of Sylvia Plath
It has been raining and dreary for five straight days now. Five. Days. Normally, I love a good rainy day--it gives you the excuse to be a little sleepier and to listen to sad songs. But five in a row is driving me completely mad. It's not helping that this week is one that just won't seem to end, but in order to maintain any semblance of sanity it really needs to. So today while gazing out my window at the cold, grey-ness, I decided that I had to do something tonight to at least make this week not a complete loss. So, I came home, made dinner, talked to one of my favorite people on the planet, changed into my favorite yoga pants, my old, ratty Wittenberg t-shirt, my old-man cardigan, and my favorite grey socks. I poured myself a beer and I sat down to write and fill you in on the past few weeks of reading. Take that, soggy weather!
There were two books that I neglected to completely review that I read in 2012, so I'll start with those and then move on to the three books I've read this year so far. If the beginning of this year is any indication of the awesome things in the world of books that are to float my way, then call me a happy girl.
Here's what I've read since my last post that was not a look back at my 25th year or my top list of books from 2012:
The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell: O'Donnell does a lot of things right in this book and one of them is the characters that she creates and almost forces you to root for. Marnie and Nelly lived in Glasgow with their eccentric, drug-addicted, often abusive parents. The book opens bluntly with the fact that Marnie and Nelly's parents are dead. Not only are they dead, but they are buried in the backyard by the two girls. The girls are used to fending for themselves, so they survive fine without their parents for a while and then they are taken in by the man living next door, Lennie, who's partner died leaving him alone with no one to care for and little to do. Lennie has several secrets of his own, and he makes room in his life and home for the dark and troubled Marnie and the young, innocent, extremely proper-speaking Nelly. When their estranged grandfather turns up looking for their mother, chaos begins and the story of their parents and what the girls have been going through slowly begins to unravel. The story is a little dark, but funny in places, and it's a very quick read with short chapters and plotlines that keep you wanting to read and find out more. I would say that if you liked The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson, you'd like this one!
An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer: This book actually made my Top 10 of 2012, so I'll just re-post my review there here. Suffice it to say that I really loved this book and found it the perfect read for myself for where I am in my life. My review last week: " This was my last book of the year, and I adored it. It's actually one that HarperCollins sent me and I read it over Christmas. I had a stressful time getting out of DC for the holidays, and because of the fat that I was engrossed in this book, I didn't throw up on the plane on the way back! The story is about Naomi who grows up in the Boston area with a clinically depressed mother and a father who loves her and had a heart attack in front of her while touring Rose Kennedy's home. As she grows up, she is determined to become a doctor and puts all of her effort into it. Naomi's only childhood friend is Teddy whose family is devoutly Jewish and who disapproves of Naomi, but the two are in love--a kind of kid-love that most of us are familiar with, but also something deeper that stays with them even after Teddy moves away and eventually stops communicating with Naomi. As the years pass, Naomi throws herself more into school and tennis and she goes to Wellesley where events occur that lead her to the Shakespeare Society and to performing plays with the group. She makes good friends and stops focusing on school as much, and when her mother becomes ill, her life is completely changed. The major plot point is when Naomi's best friend is accused of cheating and her time at Wellesley goes a bit sour. I don't want to give anything away except to say that this book was the perfect book for me--it's about thinking you know who you are and who you're supposed to be and then taking the time to figure out that it's not that way at all. The story is not only about Naomi's time at school but also in understanding her troubled mother, the nature of friendship, and what is truly important. Naomi comes across as real person, not just a character, and I was sad to finish the book."
And on to 2013...
The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon: This short, quick book packs a punch. I will warn you right now: if you have a problem reading things that are not capitalized and that take a while to get used to the writing style, this may not be the book for you. Written completely in lowercase letters, it is told from the perspective of Mary who is the daughter of a poor farming family in 1830. The story is written by her own, newly literate hand. Mary's father sent her to work at the city's vicar's home as a housemaid and nurse to the vicar's ailing wife. Prior to her stay with the vicar and his family, Mary had never been anywhere but home, so the world that she is thrown into is new and scary and exciting. As Mary cares for the vicar's wife, she makes herself invaluable in the household, not only for the friendship that she kindles with the woman, but also in her liveliness and spunk. After the woman passes away, Mary is kept on by the vicar, who teaches her to read but with dire consequences. Mary continues to remind you that she is telling you the truth and that she's writing her story in her own hand, and the reason for those reminders becomes clear in the end. Mary is someone easy to sympathize with and whose telling of her own story is very effective and heartbreaking. I really liked this book and it made me gasp aloud at points (warranting strange looks on the metro) and once you get used to the writing style, its a good, engrossing read.
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz: Junot Diaz doesn't necessarily need one more random person praising his genius, but he's gonna get one. I love him. I feel like I shouldn't love him, but I do. If you've read anything else by Diaz (if you haven't read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, please go get it now) you'll be familiar with his recurring character Yunior who we meet often in his short stories and in his collection Drown. This book is comprised of nine stories which can all stand well on their own, but work so seamlessly well together it's amazing. Yunior is a womanizer of the worst kind--one who thinks he'll never get caught and who doesn't understand the seriousness of what he's doing to someone he claims to love, yet all he really wants deep down beneath his machismo is to be loved. Each story focuses on a woman in Yunior's life--past lovers, a woman twice his age with whom he had an affair, his mother, his brother's girlfriends, and the true love of his life who he lost by looking everywhere for love and not finding it. The stories are infused with Yunior's home life and his stories of being an immigrant in America. Rafa, Yunior's brother, is diagnosed with cancer that eventually takes his life and becomes this crazy, determined, almost admirable character in a way. Diaz's writing is always straight-up raw with emotion and reality and it's amazing how close he hits to the bone. So good. Please read.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver: As I literally just finished this book and then sat down with my computer to write, this is by far the book that's freshest in my head. When I started reading this about a week ago, I said to Traber, "Man, I just don't know if I'm going to like this Barbara Kingsolver book." To which he wisely said, "You always say that about Barbara Kingsolver books that you read and then you like them." Smart (and attentive!) man. I felt the same way about Kingsolver's Lacuna and The Poisonwood Bible at the beginnings--I wasn't sure if I was going to like them. It's always something about her characters... they're just not that likable in the beginning or something. I can't quite put my finger on it. Nevertheless. Flight Behavior is the story of a woman, Dellarobia, a high school educated housewife, living in an Appalachian town who, while on her way to a field to meet a man with whom she is considering having an affair, she comes upon thousands of monarch butterflies making their home right there in Tennessee. The sight of the butterflies stirs something in Dellarobia, steering her away from the affair and thrusting her headfirst into national fame and a life that she doesn't understand anymore. Married to a farmer (who is indebted to his parents) at a young age, Dellarobia has two wonderful kids whom she loves and one of whom is one of the greatest parts of the book. The world hears about this strange sighting of butterflies and begin knocking on Dellarobia's door to see them. Eventually, scientists come to find out why the butterflies have come to this field when they should be in Mexico or Canada and Dellarobia becomes enthralled and stimulated by the butterflies, and begins to help the scientists on their quest. The book deals a lot with global warming and the effects it has on things that we don't even realize, and although it's loud when it comes to that side of it, I never thought it was preachy. There is a lot that happens in the book, but there were two big things that I took away from it. 1) Barbara Kingsolver must be a super-well-rounded person and tells an excellent story. Her books are always so well researched and always go on to teach me something I didn't know about something I never thought I would care about. 2) Dellarobia is on a quest of her own and doesn't know it until the butterflies smack her on her back basically. The story, while about the butterflies is really about Dellarobia's coming to terms with who she is, who she is forced to be, and who she wants to be regardless of where her circumstances have put her. If you liked The Help or any other Kingsolver, I'd say pick this one up!
And that's where I am in my reading life as of about 30 minutes ago. And now the choice becomes what to read next. This is the pile of books next to my bed:
Sooo I have a big decision to make on what to read next. But that's half the fun!
Time for me to put on warm pajamas and go listen to this song on repeat like I've been doing since I got home and do some kind of sun dance and pray for just a little sunshine tomorrow.
How has your year in reading begun? I hope you've had a chance to read a ton of great things like I have! :)