I had the intention of updating this at the end of every month with my book reviews and my updates on my goals, but you know... life.
And so finally, here are some book reviews for you!
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
This is a short story collection in which all the stories take place in Winesburg, a small town. Many of them are connected through the perspective of George Willard, a young newspaper reporter. Anderson describes the stories as a series of characters sketches and describes his characters as "grotesques."
I loved this. It is great to read short stories because you can read one and feel all accomplished. There was a surprising amount of variety in the stories, but they did all have similarities. My favorite is still the first story in the collection which is titled "Hands."
I highly recommend it.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The classic tale of high adventure, pirates, fencing, fighting, and true love.
This is a re-read for me and I still love it. It's clever and funny and the classic from my childhood.
If you've never read it, I highly recommend it. You will get all your favorite scenes from the movie with a little more to love -- for example background on the lives of Fezzik and Inigo -- and the added commentary from Goldman as he abridges the original work of S. Morgenstern.
The Red House by Mark Haddon
A brother rents a country house for a vacation with his family and invites his estranged sister and her family to go as well.
This is a very postmodern telling of the story. It flashes between all the characters as narrators, even those narrators who use a stream-of-consciousness narrative, without any markers or breaks to alert you. It also includes passages that the characters read in different books without markers. This is cool in a theoretical way, but in reading the novel it was trippy and difficult to get into and difficult to follow.
In addition to the structure of the novel, I didn't like the characters very much. They are all dealing with various problems, but they are annoying and not dealing with the problems well.
I don't recommend it.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The premise centers around the idea "What if you could live life over again until you get it right?" So the novel begins with the birth of Ursula and each time she dies, she is reborn and able to live again to that point and fix the errors that caused her death. Each time she is fixing things, she is rewriting history, both her own, that of her family and others around her, and ultimately history itself.
This was a great story. I really liked the way the story was told. It was an interesting premise and a clever way to tell it. It was fascinating to see the ways that one change changes Ursula's entire life. I keep thinking about how it ended and going back to that. And if I keep thinking about it long after I finish it, it means it was a really good book.
Ursula is 20-something when World War II breaks out, so she lives through the war (several times) and in one section she lives through the bombing of London. That was amazingly described and so vivid. It made me feel like a part of the story.
I highly recommend this. Start reading it now.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
This is another book by Brene Brown (remember my review of Daring Greatly?). In this one she discusses the ten qualities she found in people that are shame resilient. She discusses each of the ten qualities and how they can be incorporated and practiced in our lives.
I loved this and have already begun to reread it. One thing that I liked better about Daring Greatly was Brene included more stories from her research participants. This one didn't have that, but it did have the specific focus on ten things to do, which is what I always want -- specific things to do. So I am thinking about that and have ten new things to add goals about.
I recommend it.
The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel
This is a nonfiction account of the men and women in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Artifacts division of the the army who protected monuments and recovered art during World War II when the Nazi's looted art from all the countries they invaded and attempted to destroy much of it.
This was a great book. I didn't know the story at all until the movie came out, but the Nazi's were intent on destroying everything -- not just killing people, but destroying everything about them and their cultures and the MFAA recognized the power of art and stepped in. And from a seriously disorganized place, they came together and each on their own uncovered stolen art and saved all kinds of amazing artwork and artifacts.
The book was well written. It was easy to keep the men straight because of how well Edsel described each of them. One thing about the writing that I particularly loved was that Edsel included letters that each man wrote home to his wife. The men were so passionate about their work. I was very moved to read their feelings about the importance of art and the work they were doing to save the art.
I highly recommend it.
The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
After her lying cheating husband leaves her for a much younger woman that he got pregnant, the wife takes her revenge.
A coworker friend of mine recommended this. I really struggled to get through it. It took way too long for me to read because I so thoroughly did not like it. I found it really flat in the writing and the characters were both really annoying. My friend compared it to Gone Girl, but it was nowhere near that clever.
I don't recommend it.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Devil arrives in Moscow, discovers that no one believes in him (and no one believes in Jesus either) and he unleashes chaos on the city.
That was a horrible summation. This is a difficult book to explain. It is Russian literature and on the surface it is the story of the Devil and Pontius Pilate and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Underneath it is a scathing criticism of Russian society that couldn't be published and had to be smuggled out of the country.
It is beautifully written. It is slow, but given the opportunity to sink into it, it is beautiful and captivating.
It is odd and quirky. And although the story of Pilate begins the novel, it gets sidetracked in the tale of the Devil's minions performing at the Variety -- funny, entertaining, one of the areas where society is blasted, but still odd.
Recommend? If you like that sort of thing.
Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
A humor memoir of life growing up in West Texas with a taxidermist father.
The events themselves reminded me of The Glass Castle (which I loved and highly recommend). But this book was laugh out loud funny.
For examples, Lawson tells about taking her daughter to the pool. Her husband forgot to put her in a swim diaper, so after a few minutes in the water, she "begins to swell like a giant mushroom cloud." I was reading on the treadmill at the gym while I was full out running. I was laughing so hard at this scene, that I had to jump off the treadmill, and then I was hunched over gasping because I couldn't catch my breath because I was laughing and running. Yes, I'm the crazy person at the gym.
So maybe don't read it in public, but I loved this book and highly recommend it. Besides the don't read in public warning, I will also warn you about the language.