Books – November 2018 Roundup

This was a very good month.  5 books down is a good way to end things, especially considering it’s a “shorter” month with only 30 days.  I felt like this was a month of mostly easy reading with a little challenge right in the middle.

FINISHED:

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Another fluffy mystery – the second – in the Maisie Dobbs series.  This one I liked better, and I felt like the main characters who continue in each installment were beginning to feel fleshed out instead of like Mary Sues.  I actually enjoyed the fact that the mystery seemed to be less about “Whodunnit?” and more about “Whydunnit?”, which in this case was more nuanced and complicated than the who part, which ended up being a bit of a let-down, and not really something you could have seen coming.  I will definitely be interested in reading the next one now.

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

I’m not sure where I heard about this book, but I had put it on my hold list on the digital library list, and then it came available, and I listened.  And it was REALLY INTERESTING.  There’s a twist about 1/2-2/3 of the way through that I was very proud of myself for spotting a bit before it happened.  And all the reviews of this book talk about how it’s released with perfect timing for the #metoo era, and I have to agree.  There is nuanced discussion of sexual assault and rape, and you don’t really know who to believe until MUCH closer to the end of the novel.  A fascinating modern read, and especially interesting if you are interested in legal novels as opposed to mysteries.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Hoo-boy.  This was my literary challenge possibly for the year.  It was also an audiobook, which I’m not sure if that helped or hindered.  It had a lot of famous voices that I recognized in the reading (Nick Offerman! David Sedaris! Bradley Whitford! Megan Mullally! Lena Dunham! Kat Dennings!), but the style is SO challenging.  The story takes place over one night – the night when President Lincoln goes to visit the body of his recently deceased son Willy at his tomb.  And it imagines a sort of limbo for spirits who are not ready to move on yet.  The book is narrated by some of these, but in a super confusing way where they sometimes speak for themselves, and sometimes speak for each other.  It’s also got whole parts that are just footnotes/references from historical (and occasionally fake?) sources to provide background to what has happened.  It is a challenge.  I seriously thought about quitting reading it because it was so weird and complicated, but because it was short, and I was looking at my book count, I slogged on.  It is not my favorite book I’ve ever read.  It’s definitely at a higher, more intellectually demanding level than what I normally listen to or read.  I feel like the best part of having read this book is now at parties when people talk about what they’re reading, I can find out if anyone else has read this, and if they had as hard a time with it as I did.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

My book club book for November!  I…did not finish before book club.  In fact, I nearly didn’t finish before the end of November, but I pushed through and read to the end yesterday.  As someone in book club remarked, “I feel more woke for having read this”.  And yes, I do.  It’s an easy read, as most YA books are, and it covers a lot of the issues that are important when thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement.  There’s discussion of black-on-black violence, gangs, the ethics of taking your child out of a “bad” school system, the ethics of moving out of a traditionally black neighborhood, the emotional complications of having an imprisoned parent, non-traditional family relations and how they can complicate and support relationships, interracial relationships, the challenges of having to be the model minority…jeez, I could go on.  In fact, looking at that list, it’s amazingly unfair that anything that gets labelled “YA” tends to also be thought of as “easily dismissed”.  As in, it’s just a young adult novel, there’s nothing of consequence in there.  But instead, Angie Thomas gives the reader SO much to think about.  And the ending of the book isn’t tied up in some neat bow.  Some of the relationships that were shattered over the course of the book don’t get put back together and healed in some nice way.  There are real consequences to the actions that characters take.  And there’s not some neat happy ending.  This is a book that if read by people who were on the fence might change their minds.  It lets you see that everyone has a deeper story to tell, and too often the news media just want to have a headline.

What I’m saying is you need to read this book if you haven’t already.

Calypso by David Sedaris

So technically as of the time I’m writing this post, I’m not done.  But I’ve got less than an hour left of the audiobook, and more than that much time left in the day when I can listen to it.  So I’ll count it.  Have I mentioned how much I love David Sedaris?  How every time I read any of his books, I find myself laughing hysterically out loud in the car?  Laughing to the point where I worry that other drivers will see me and wonder if I’m having some kind of seizure?  One of my favorite pieces from this book is one I’d read before, and it’s called Stepping Out, and you can read it too, since it was published in the New Yorker a few years ago.  I’m going to be a little sad when I finish this book, just because I do love the joy of listening to Sedaris read his pieces to me and every other reader.

IN PROGRESS/IMMEDIATELY NEXT:

Victoria: A Life by A.N. Wilson

LOL.  I will have this book marked as “in progress” until the end of time.  Someday when I have not fallen behind on my reading goal, I will pick it back up.

People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges by Jen Mann

I started this book in October.  I am most of the way through it.  I’m hoping that this will help me get through my requirements by the end of the year.  But since it’s on Kindle, that means not being so tired at bedtime that I can’t read it.  Hm…

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

My book club book for December, and very short – “about 3 hours” according to my app.  I think this is going to be an excellent way to start my last month of the year.

***

So, boom.  5 books down in one month.  7 to finish by the end of the year.  It’s possible.  It would mean choosing short books.  But maybe I can do it?  Who knows.  Watch this space.  And my Goodreads!

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