Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Quick Lit • September 2015

Sometimes I read a book so overwhelmingly fabulous that it overshadows all others, and I find myself unsure what to read next.  I tiptoe around my to-be-read stack, worrying that whatever subsequent book I choose will pale in comparison to what I have just finished.  I ran into such a glorious problem a few weeks ago when I devoured 800-something pages of 11/22/63 and was left wishing it had never ended.  It was simply a phenomenal book - the kind of story that grabs a hold of you and doesn't let go.  

Stephen King, I think, is too often discounted by serious readers because of his horror novels and the pulp-like tendencies of some of his books, but did you know he has written over 50 books?  And all of them were bestsellers?  Not just bestsellers, but worldwide bestsellers?  The man should be handed a few honorary doctorates and hailed as one of this country's great writers.  Also, he makes me want to visit Maine.  

His nonfiction book, On Writing, was the kind of nonfiction that is so engrossing I read it in one sitting, staying up into the wee hours of the morning so that I wouldn't have to put it down.

Today, I am linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share short & casual snippet-like reviews of the books I have read over the past month.

Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace is a collection of essays written in typical Anne Lamott fashion, filled with irreverence and wit and copious George W. Bush bashing. Each of the essays stands alone, though the concept of grace is the binding thread between them, so it might not be something that you sit down with and expect to read cover-to-cover in one sitting. She's a hot mess in all of these stories, and that is what makes her so relatable (and, dare I say, lovable).

Still Life is a lovely debut detective novel, refined and graceful and just suspenseful enough. The characters were quirky and eccentric and mostly loveable, escaping the tiresome hard-boiled cliches of most contemporary detective series. The mystery itself was almost background for what became a character study more than an edge-of-the-seat thriller. My only complaint was the heavy-handed, hurried manner in which the mystery was solved In the final few pages. Regardless, I will be putting the next book on hold at the library right away. I can't wait to see where the author goes with this series.

Landline was a bummer. Maybe I expected too much from this book (I *loved* Eleanor & Park, after all), but I ended up feeling pretty let down by this one. The dialogue is great and the characters are interesting, but the storyline read like just another chick lit book to me. I just don't love angst in books about adults. It isn't a bad book, by any stretch, and if chick lit is your thing, this is one of the better ones. I'm torn between two and three stars, so I'm giving this novel the benefit of the doubt and giving it three because it is very well-written for the genre.

11/22/63 blew me away, and was almost impossible to put down (despite it topping out at close to 900 pages). The narrator travels back in time to attempt to prevent JFK's assassination, and while that part left me breathless for around 100 pages, the breadth of the story is spent exploring the narrator's years biding his time as he waits between 1958 and 1963. The characters he meets, the towns he lives in, the experiences of this modern-day schoolteacher in a time gone by are gripping and even a little haunting. Storytelling as its finest. I only wish it had been twice as long.

Attachments is a little fluffy, but highly entertaining. There is a geeky, D&D-playing male narrator and a slew of likeable and mostly hilarious characters. My only complaint is the cheese factor of the last two chapters, but the cheese was redeemed by the intelligent wit and some truly laugh-out-loud moments. Great vacation read.

Descent is suspenseful and atmospheric, with flawed characters (my favorite kind) and a dark but not overwhelmingly bleak tone.  The novel traces the story of a family in the wake of the disappearance of their daughter while the family is on vacation in the Rocky Mountains. The story is told over a number of years and follows each of the characters in turn.


Lee said...

You should visit Maine--my mom lives there and it is a gorgeous state! Course I should probably visit Georgia! I love his novels and have to read the one about time travel. So many books, so little time!

Sarah Beam said...

sooooo many books, so little time, indeed

arenda said...

"I only wish it had been twice as long." Wow! That's quite the compliment for a 800+ page novel! :) I started reading 11/22/63 but found it way too tense (I'd just had a baby, I think that's why). When he went back in time and the Yellow Card man was the Black Card man . . . I just stopped there. So much tension!!!

Vanessa @ Little Gold Pixel said...

Wow, so many people have been recommending 11/22/63 lately! I'm finally adding it to my library queue.

Sarah Beam said...

Arenda, it got way less freaky during the middle 500 pages.

Sarah Beam said...

Vanessa, I avoided it myself for a long time, but finally I couldn't resist any longer after the fifth person recommended it to me.