Mini Reviews of Recent Reads

Hello darlings! I don’t know about you, but I have been reading up a STORM. And most of the books I’ve read lately have been really, incredibly good. Now, I haven’t had time to write full reviews of everything I’ve read in the last few months, so I’d like to share a few mini reviews!

Mini Review: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offil
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Purchased
Knopf; Jan 1, 2014

This wonderful little novel is the fragmented musings of a woman as she goes through her marriage, dealing with everything from a colicky baby to bedbugs to infidelity. It’s a difficult book to describe because it doesn’t really have a plot; it’s more a series of lyrical, beautiful vignettes about marriage and motherhood, with all of their ups and downs.

The format of this novel is unusual, but it makes this book really special. It can easily be read in one sitting, but it has stuck with me since I read it two months ago. It’s starkly, sparsely, achingly beautiful.
Mini Review: Sleep Donation by Karen Russell

Sleep Donation by Karen Russell. 
(Purchased)
Atavist Books; March 25, 2014

In the future, thousands of Americans have lost the ability to sleep, and the crisis grows into an epidemic. The Slumber Corps is founded to combat the illness by accepting sleep donations from healthy dreamers. These sleep donations work much the same as blood transfusions, and even an hour of healthy sleep can save an insomniac from death; a full eight hours can cure him/her.

Our protagonist, Trish, whose sister was one of the first to die from insomnia, works as a recruiter for the Slumber Corps. Although she is one of the Corps’ most effective recruiters, her faith in the organization is shaken when the first universal donor is discovered in “Baby A.” Despite Baby A’s parents’ hesitation, the Corps is intent on continually mining the baby for her perfect sleep, regardless of her best interests.

Although the premise of this novella is classic Russell, it wasn’t one of my favorite stories of her’s, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

me talk pretty one dayMe Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
(Purchased)
Back Bay Books; June 5, 2001

I’ve had two Sedaris books sitting on my bookshelf for about two years, picked up at a library sale and a used bookstore, and I figured it was finally time to read one and see what all the fuss is about!

This collection of personal essays reads almost like a memoir, as Sedaris describes his childhood in North Carolina, where he had to undergo speech therapy for his lisp (instead of fixing his impediment, he just stopped saying words with the letter “s” in them), his years doing drugs and trying to be a performance artist (without any talent to back him up), and the time he spent living with his boyfriend in Paris (where he tried to learn butchered French at a language school).

I know a lot of people really love Sedaris, but I didn’t really think this book was all that special. It was a fun, quick read, but the essays are a bit formulaic, and this isn’t a book that’s going to stick with me.

King’s March: The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining by Stephen KingI am a huge scaredy-pants. As a kid, I changed the channel as soon as Are You Afraid of the Dark came on TV. I steered clear away from the Goosebumps books at the library. In jr. high, I shook violently all through The Ring 2. When my friends decided to watch Saw at a high school sleepover, I spent most of the next two hours with my head under a blanket. For the next week, I slept with a night light. I scare easily, and I don’t like being scared. For this reason, I’ve never read a horror novel.

That said, 2014 is my Year of Reading Adventurously. I’ve read a romance novel and a graphic novel… so why not try a horror novel as well? When Wensend and Fourth Street Review announced King’s March, a month-long Stephen King reading event, I decided that now was the time to step outside of my comfort zone and read something scary. I chose to try The Shining because I’ve seen the movie (I actually love it, despite my usual aversion to anything scary) and I thought the book would be less scary if I already knew the story. Continue reading

Literary Love: Reading Romance for the First Time

Literary LoveLiterary Love 2014 is a week dedicated to all things book love-ish. Link up any post showing love to a book, author, etc and feel free to grab our button & use our hashtag, #LiteraryLove14.

Read more about this event at Love at First Book

I have never been one for romance. I don’t read romance novels, and I prefer the literary fiction I read to be light on the love. Call me a cynic, but boy-meets-girl stories usually just make me feel eye-roll-y. But one of my reading resolutions for this year is to read more diversely. I intended this to mean I would read more literature by people who aren’t white Americans, but it SHOULD also mean trying out genres I’m unfamiliar with. When I learned about the Literary Love event, I decided it was the perfect time to try reading a romance novel! I can’t TELL you how far out of my comfort zone this was, but I did it! Continue reading

Book Review: The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greengerg

Book Review: Burial Rights by Hannah KentTHE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH
by Isabel Greenberg

Graphic novel
Little, Brown; Oct, 3, 2013
Hardcover; 176 pages
Source: Purchased

I’m declaring 2014 the Year of Reading Widely. As I wrote in my Reading Resolutions post, I’m making an effort to read more diversely — reading genres outside my comfort zone, translated works, and books by authors who aren’t white. I’ve been doing pretty well so far! I’ve read a few books by authors of color, and I got three more from the library this week. I also read my first romance novel, and I just finished my first graphic novel!

I bought a copy of The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg after reading River City Reading’s review. I’ve never been interested in graphic novels because I associated them with comic books, so I was really interested to read Shannon’s review of this book. The Bookrageous Podcast has also made me interested in the form recently. To top it off, this month is Graphic Novels/Comics February! It seemed like the perfect opportunity to try reading something outside of my comfort zone. Continue reading

Jazz Age January: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Book Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FizgeraldTHE GREAT GATSBY
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fiction, Classics
Scribner, 1925
Paperback; 180 pages
Source: Purchased

I hadn’t planned on re-reading The Great Gatsby, but after finishing Careless People, a book about Gatsby‘s creation, I couldn’t resist! I’ve read this book twice before, and I was eager to re-read it hot on the heals of a book about the factors that influenced its writing.

I wrote about this book last time I read it, two years ago, but I thought I’d revisit it for Jazz Age January! This post contains spoilers.

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Jazz Age January: The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fizgerald

Book Review: The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott FitzgeraldTHE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fiction
Vintage; 1920
Paperback; 388 pages
Source: Purchased

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s second novel centers around Anthony Patch and his beautiful wife Gloria. Inspired by Scott and Zelda themselves, this couple live wildly in 1920s New York, seeking pleasure at any cost.

Anthony, a would-be aristocrat waiting for his inheritance, spends his bachelor days at clubs, attending raucous parties, and entertaining women. When he meets Gloria, a beautiful golden girl bursting with life, he immediately falls in love with her. The two marry and proceed to have as grand a time as possible.  Continue reading

Jazz Age January: Careless People by Sarah Churchwell

Book Review: Burial Rights by Hannah KentCARELESS PEOPLE
by Sarah Churchwell

Non-Fiction
The Penguin Press; Jan. 23, 2014
Hardcover; 432 pages
Source: Received from publisher for review

Although F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t write The Great Gatsby until 1925, he chose to set his iconic novel in 1922. Intrigued by his choice of setting, Sarah Churchwell set out to investigate Fizgerald’s influences while writing his masterwork.

In 1922, Fitzgerald was 26, returning to New York for the publication of Tales of the Jazz Age. Already a wildly successful writer, he and his vivacious wife Zelda soon became absorbed in the glamorous lifestyle of jazz age NY. Prohibition meant that booze was flowing more freely than ever before, reckless drivers were killing people right and left, and a slate of murders became media sensations.  Continue reading

Jazz Age January: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Book Review: Burial Rights by Hannah KentA MOVEABLE FEAST
by Ernest Hemingway

Non-Fiction: Classics
Scribner; 1964
Paperback; 236 pages
Source: Purchased

A Moveable Feast is the first Hemingway book I’ve read since my high school English class reading of A Farewell to Arms, and although I enjoyed it, I’m not sure it was the best place to start reading his work.

Unfinished and published posthumously, A Moveable Feast is Hemingway’s memoir of his time spent in Paris with his fist wife Hadley in the early 1920s. Also included in this “restored edition” are many Paris sketches that I think weren’t meant to be in the book but that provide interesting insights into the author’s life.

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Jazz Age January: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Book Review: Burial Rights by Hannah KentTHE PARIS WIFE
by Paula McLain

Fiction: Historical
Ballantine Books; 2011
Audio (Paperback: 314 pages)
Source: Library

It’s 1920 in Chicago, and the parties are swinging, but 28-year-old Hadley Richardson has nearly given up on finding love and a happy marriage. The tides turn when she meets a young Ernest Hemingway, who sweeps her off her feet. After a whirlwind marriage, they marry and move to Paris, where they fall in with an artistic crowd later known as the Lost Generation.

The Paris Wife is the story of Hadley, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, during their time in Paris. Through her perspective, we experience the wild parties of the 20s and get to know some of the Jazz Age’s major figures, including Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound. Continue reading

Audiobook Mini Reviews: Memoirs

Last week I posted a few mini reviews of audiobooks I’ve listened to in the last few months/year. Today I’m back with Round 2! This post rounds out all of the audiobooks I’ve listened to (or can remember listening to) with the exception of The Hunger Games trilogy, which I think will get its own post. Anyway, it turns out that I really like listening to memoirs by funny ladies, because that’s what three of these four books are. Without further ado, I present Audiobook Mini Reviews: Memoir Edition. Continue reading