SPRING IS HEEEEERRREEEEEEEEE!! (and here’s proof):
Not a lot of bookishness to write home about this past week (Chicago traffic prevented me from getting to that Book Swap on time, grr), but I did get a few books out of the way:
Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
I listened to this on audio, and this is my first Hornby book (I have yet to read About A Boy or High Fidelity. I know, you’d think Hugh Grant/baby Nick Hoult on-screen charm would have led me to pick up the book, but I got busy reading other things along the way. I will get to those, eventually). Anyway, I had spotted it in some of my recent bookstore visits, so when I saw that it was available on one of my many rabbit-hole scroll adventures on Overdrive, I went for it. Here’s the plot: Back in the 60’s, Barbara from Blackpool has just been crowned a beauty queen, but wants so much more. She wants to be the next Lucille Ball so she travels to London, hoping to become a TV comedy star. After experiencing some of the struggles that come with trying to make it big in showbiz, she winds up in an audition and lands a role that is perfect; literally, it is crafted for her. The novel goes on to examine her life of a TV star- accompanied by fame, fortune, a stage name (Barbara becomes Sophie Straw to increase the likelihood of stardom), media scrutiny, complicated family ties, and of course, romance.
There were a lot things I enjoyed about this book: Barbara is quick-witted, and has no qualms about shutting down the mansplainers around her. Slapstick comedy, British humor, and an ensemble cast-of-sorts, there were quite a few moments in the first 2/3rds of the book. The characters have a hilarious moments even though they are generic, given the setting of the story. The parts of the novel that had all the members of the TV show in the same room interacting with each other were definitely entertaining. Hornby does a really good job making you feel like you are smack-dab in the middle of a swingin’ London from the 60’s. The novel lags off a bit in the last 100-odd pages when the novel follows each of the characters lives after the show ends, but it has a sweet moment when the group reunites at a specific life-event. Hornby makes some attempt to rekindle a romance between Sophie and her former lover with a semi-deep conversation, but it trails off very quickly. I almost wonder if this would have done better as a long comedy sketch, or any sort of visual adaptation, as opposed to novelization. All in all, if you’re looking for something light and quick to read, you could pick this up.
No One Knows by J. T. Ellison
This was one of my picks for Book Of The Month Club, recommended by Liberty Hardy. I read this book in two sittings. It is a good-old fashioned thriller, fast-paced with twists thrown your way that will keep you in “just one more chapter” mode till you’re done. High-school and college Janani almost exclusively read mystery/suspense novels, so this was a sweet reunion with the genre. Aubrey Hamilton’s husband Josh is declared dead by the state of Tennessee- five years after his disappearance. Five years ago, the couple were at their close friends’ bachelor/bachelorette parties, and Josh hadn’t been seen since. Aubrey is depressed, lonely, bitter, and barely coping. She keeps looking back to their marriage, wondering if she ever knew the man that she loved, or was she reading too much into a standard homicide. Meanwhile, the day Josh is declared officially dead, a new yet familiar figure, Chase, appears in Aubrey’s life. Coincidence? She doesn’t know what to think. Was he really dead? Was he kidnapped? Did he run away? Did Chase have something to do with all of this?
I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say this- if you’re looking for a fast and gripping mystery/thriller that will have you stay wayyy up past your bedtime, look no further. Twists on twists on twists. Red herrings. The works. Enjoy!
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
I’d already purchased Oyeyemi’s new book of short stories before this book came in from the library, so I decided to save that one for Dewey’s readathon next week. There are three women featured in this novel- Boy, Snow, and Bird, and the book is split into three parts. The story incorporates elements of mysticism and fairy tale, and discusses race, which of course stoked my enthusiasm and were the reasons I picked it up in the first place. The story goes like this: Boy Novak runs away from her home in New York to Massachusetts in the 50’s, marries a widower who has one daughter (Snow), and later gives birth to a child (Bird). Here’s the thing: Bird is born dark-skinned, inadvertently exposing Snow and her father, Arturo, who were light-skinned passing off as white, as African-Americans. Oyeyemi uses this to explore race relations in the 50’s. So I have several feelings about the book. The prose? Loved it. Very lyrical, beautifully written. The first section of this book had me completely enamoured. The second section was also very good, for the most part. Things unraveled a bit for me in the last part of the book. I think Oyeyemi had some great ideas and vision for what the book should be, but it fell just a bit short of that for me. I was looking for more content on some of her reveals, which she didn’t have. It seemed like that the author was aiming for a Snow-White re-telling, but it didn’t quite work out that way. I enjoyed reading it, but it left me wanting more. However, this doesn’t make me dread her new book, mostly because I have heard spectacular things about it (I imagine she has progressed significantly since this one). We shall see.
American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
HOW HAD I NEVER READ THIS BEFORE? That’s it, that’s my review. (just kidding)
We have three main characters in this graphic novel: Jin Wang, a kid that’s desperate to fit in and become your classic All-American boy; The Monkey King, an old Chinese folklore about a Monkey King who wants to be acknowledged as a god and will do anything to make that happen; and Chin-Kee, the ultimate derogatory Chinese stereotype, whose cousin Danny, the popular kid, is so embarrassed by cousin Chin-Kee’s annual visits that he has to switch schools each time. In the beginning, they seem to be three separate storylines, but they all come together in the end. This reminded me of the stories I read growing up as a child, in terms of structure. It is nearly fable-like. The illustrations are gorgeous, and are a perfect accompaniment to the utterly heart-breaking and poignant storyline. Here’s a book about the immigrant experience, adolescence, and self-acceptance for the young mind. It certainly pushes you to experience feelings of discomfort, especially every time you read Chin-Kee’s story. The overarching theme of “accept who you are, don’t change for anyone” might feel simple and idealistic, but it works for the intended audience.
Meanwhile, I finally got around to curating my Dewey’s Readathon stack ( April 23rd, mark your calendars! If you haven’t signed up yet, go now). I decided to go with a theme to make the selection process a little easier: books I own that were written by women. This was mostly in order to make some progress with #readmyowndamnbooks and #readthebooksyoubuy, so yes, very strategic criteria-selection as well.
Additionally, I will be hosting Twitter parties on Monday and Tuesday evening, 8 p.m. CDT, which I am very excited about. My plan is to prep for some fun discussions later tonight. Thanks Andi for the opportunity!
Reading forecast for the upcoming week: To finish reading as many library books as I can, and actually return ones that I don’t feel like reading at the moment instead of renewing them again. So much DNF-guilt, I tell ya.
That’s all from me folks! Back to Hamiltome (nearly done with it, SO BEAUTIFUL). What have you guys been reading?