July Reviews

Seriously, how is it the end of July? The fact that school starts in less than two weeks is downright painful... and I still need to paint baseboards. You know, if everyone - teachers, students, and support staff - got together and just simply refused to show up for a few more weeks we may be on to something. Temporary mutiny. I'm sure it would work. Positive. 

July Reviews:

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
516 pages
I have to begin this with a long sigh. Now a bunch of you are going to absolutely hate me, but I think Night Circus might be a tad overrated. It's entertaining as fuck, but in terms of character development, plot, and even the writing, I think we're coasting on the surface level of things. For those that have no idea what
this book is about, it's about a boy and a girl who are both separately trained by magicians and will one day compete in a sort of game between their mentors. The venue is a magical circus that travels mysteriously around the country, involving a multitude of people. There's love, deceit, and, of course, magic. I started this book in the airport, which was absolutely perfect. 

Verdict: If there were an Oscars for books, I'd describe this as "Oscar bait." Interesting with some truly great parts, but also a reliance on often being too over-the-top.

My Education by Susan Choi
304 pages
I already wrote about this novel here, but in a nutshell it's about a graduate student who ends up having a very tumultuous affair her professor's wife. The novel follows her through her deepening obsession and then fast-forwards into the future to show how her life has panned out.

Verdict: While there were some issues with the decision to include the future events, I appreciated Choi's writing and refusal to hold back while writing some extremely sexual scenes. If you like steamy sex scenes, are interested in collegiate coming-of-age stories, or have ever felt inclined to have an affair this book is totally for you.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
321 pages
In this novel Stein writes from the perspective of an aging dog looking back on his life. The dog, Enzo, is owned by a kind, struggling race car driver that ends up marrying a woman with a brain tumor and having a child. Enzo is there through the good times and bad, shedding light on how it feels to be involved in a family as a pet. I don't think any book has ever made me cry so many times as this one- Enzo was locked inside for four days with out food ("oh my God what would happen to Cordie and Chomsky?" --> tears), Enzo was devastated after getting in big for ripping up some stuffed animals because he thought they were evil ("what if dogs could cry? how sad would that be? have I ever made my dogs cry???" --> tears), the owner loses custody of his daughter ("his wife just died and now they take his daughter?" --> tears), Enzo is hit by a car ("Cordie could never handle being hit by a car!" --> tears)- you get the picture. Let's just say I was outside at 10:30 at night finishing this book in the backyard balling my eyes out (while listening to my husband play video games... juxtaposition for you).  

Verdict: While the perspective was different, this is by no means a literary book. It is an interesting story, but just be prepared to cry if you love animals... or have a soul.

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan 
211 pages
This nonlinear story is told alphabetically, through words that describe a relationship that seems doomed from the start. The narrator chooses words that describe different stages, feelings, or events of his relationship and writes an
entry for each, then placing them in alphabetical order. I love that Levithan requires so much inference from his readers- if it was slightly more appropriate it would be great to use at work (I may borrow the idea of creating a dictionary of words to describe something about you or in your life, though). 

Verdict: This is a super, super quick read that more than anything made me think about what vocabulary I'd use to describe my relationship and how the meanings of those words can change over time.

Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
320 pages
I'm not going to lie- this collection of essays was extremely hard to get through. I'd started it quite some time ago, but put it off with the intention of getting through a few essays each week until I was finished. It sat by my bed for months until a few weeks ago, when I decided I'd just plow through the whole thing and get it over with (ouch). I have to say Smith is a genius and an absolutely amazing writer. There were some essays that I loved, like her take on writing styles, her travels to Africa, and some movie reviews she did for a newspaper. There were other ones, like her essay on Middlemarch (which I have not read), which were pretty painful. 

Verdict: If you're a fan of essay collections or Smith I'd recommend this with a bit of caution- just know what you're getting yourself into. 

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
400 pages
While I am definitely a McEwan fan, I must say that this one wasn't my favorite, nor was it horrible. Serena, the narrator, ends up joining M15 out of college as a result of her ex-lover pulling some strings. She ends up being involved on the Sweet Tooth project, which requires she convince an up-and-coming author to unknowingly write for a government affiliated publishing company to promote their social and political ideas. Serena ends up becoming involved romantically with the writer and eventually this leads to trouble.

Verdict: Again, it wasn't bad, but I thought that it would be much more exciting given the fact that it was about the M15.

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne
304 pages
This novel is about an eleven year old pop singer that is in middle of a grueling tour run by his manager mother. He's under enormous pressure from his record company, must cope with his mother's obvious substance abuse problem, and is desperately trying to get in contact with his father, whom he hasn't seen for many years. Jonny knows a lot about the music industry but little about life. I found the behind the scenes aspect interesting, and the story made me feel for child stars. I kept wanting to fine more depth to the store, but there really isn't; it's about a child who is shoved into the limelight and deprived of a "normal" upbringing. 

Verdict: I thought it was entertaining and a quick fun read, but like I said, it lacks the depth that I was hoping for. I just kept picturing Beiber the entire time I was reading it... Fantastic pool/airport/doctor's office choice.

The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire
224 pages
This is a graphic novel about an underwater welder who must confront his past while prepare for his future. Jack's wife is about to have a baby but he is distracted by the fact the next day is the annual anniversary of his dad's drowning death. The novel flashes back and forth from his childhood and to the present, where he is trying to find something that he is missing, both in terms
of something physical and emotional. He meets his younger self (take that as you will; the intro makes references to The Twilight Zone) and works to remember his father and his flaws. He must also try to salvage his marriage, as his wife is very frustrated with his distant nature and inability to help her prepare for their child. The art work is done in black and white.

Verdict: I'm still getting used to graphic novels, therefore I feel like my ability to critique them adequately is still developing. Nonetheless, I was interested in the story from start to finish and have found my thoughts returning to it all day. It's a great story that focuses on self-awareness and dealing with one's past (and future). 

2,600 pages

Read anything good this month?

1 comment:

  1. I read the night circus a while back, and have to 100% completely agree with you on that one. I neither loved, nor hated it, and thought it a tad overrated as well. However, as you stated, it really was entertaining as fuck with some creative scenes throughout.

    As for the others, haven't read or even heard of a few, and now will be heading to the bookstore to pick up a copy of 'My Education'. I mean, I could seriously use a little steam....but really, who couldn't?!

    Thanks for awesome reviews, as always my friend.