What I read this week: January 11-17

This week was a pretty full week for reading.  I read several books that I liked well enough and one that I gave up on.  I'm including books that I don't finish here just so you get a full picture of my reading.  This week I also started receiving advanced reader copies through Netgalley.  When a book I read is an advanced copy I'll note that by saying ARC and I'll try to include the publishing date when possible.

  • H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  This is the book I gave up on.  You can read more about that in this post.  

 

  • One More Day by Kelly Simmons.  This is an ARC and the scheduled publication date is February 1, 2016.  This is a novel about a child who is kidnapped in a moment of inattention by the mother.  The book is written from the point of view of the mother and seems confusing in spots.  At first I wasn't sure I liked it but as I continued reading I realized that the confusion really added to the reality of the novel.  I imagine that if your child was kidnapped you would be quite confused.  Throughout the book the mother struggles, both because she is the focus of the police investigation into the kidnapping and because her child is gone.  The book also does a good job describing a marriage under that kind of stress.  I liked it a lot.

 

  • You Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett.  This is a book of short stories told primarily from the point of view of main characters with mental illness.  I thought the author did such a good job describing things: I felt manic when the character was manic, depressed when the character was depressed, etc.  Short stories aren't usually my favorite but this collection is really beautiful.

 

  • Losing the Light by Andrea Dunlop.  This is an ARC and the scheduled publication date is February 23, 2016.  At first I thought this was going to be one of those cheesy early 20s girl makes it in New York City fashion industry kind of fluff novels.  That's the impression the first chapter gives.  But then the real story starts. This novel really tells the story of Brooke Thompson's year abroad in college.  Having spent some time as an exchange student during high school, I could really identify with some of Brooke's feelings at being in the world for the first time.  At first she is totally enamored of her new country but as her year goes on she begins to notice cracks in her fairy tale view of things. The book is about friendship and love and growing up.  I liked it and can definitely see it being a perfect book to take on vacation with you.

 

  • City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg.   This is Garth Risk Hallberg's first novel.  He received a $2 million advance for it.  It received loads of pre-publication buzz last year.  It was supposed to be the it book of 2015.  Then it was published and no one talked about it again.  That is the main list of reasons that caused me to pick this book up.  Someone thought it was going to be a best seller and then it wasn't.  Things that make you go hmm.  First of all, this novel is a monster with more than 900 pages.  I love super long books, really I do, but they have to move along right from the beginning.  This book did not. No wonder people didn't read it, you have to slog through the first 200+ pages.  I almost gave up on this one but it did finally start moving.  Secondly, it's kind of hard to care about New York City in 1977.  The 1970s don't seem to have much to recommend them (except my birth, of course).  Finally, let's talk about the characters.  There was only one that I really liked and he was only infrequently the focus of the narrative.  Overall, this was a novel that could have been really good but it didn't quite get there.  I'm thinking he could have cut about 400 pages and probably told a better story.

 

  • Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker.  This is a collection of letters Mary-Louise Parker wrote to various men in her life.  It doesn't sound very interesting but I think it was for the most part.  The description makes it sound like it's about these men but, in fact, it's about her and the things she's experienced.  I liked it, basically.  Not a totally glowing review but I don't regret that I read it.

 

  • And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Goodbye by Kara Tippetts.  This is an ARC and the scheduled publication date is March 1, 2016.  Do you know about Kara Tippetts?  Kara wrote a blog called Mundane Faithfulness.  It was lovely and moving and true and hard.  I really liked it.  This book, And It Was Beautiful, is a collection of some of her blog posts gathered in a way that tells the arc of her end of life story.  Kara fought breast cancer long and hard and eventually died March 22, 2015.  I loved this book.  I loved the honestly with which Kara shared her struggles and discouragement.  I loved the beautiful way she showed the juxtaposition between anxiously awaiting life after death while dearly holding on to the ones who would be left behind.  This book is a quick read and much of the story can be gleaned on Kara's blog but I love having it in one volume.  You should read this book.

 

Whew!  That's it for last week.  Next I'll be reading When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams, Coming Clean by Seth Haines and an ARC of Diana Abu-Jaber's memoir, Life Without a Recipe.   Come back next week for the whole scoop!