Monday, March 14, 2016

Quick Lit • March 2016

We have a long-standing family motto to never go anywhere without a book.  It doesn't hold as much weight as it once did, now that we have phones with ample reading material available and with us at all times, but the children still pack books every time we leave the house, and I am returning to my roots on that front.  I had about 30 free minutes recently between finishing up with a client and picking the kids up from their classes.  It was a beautiful day, so I parked the car, rolled down the windows, slipped off my shoes and reached for the book I had just picked up at the library.  It was glorious.

Since then, I have made a point to take my book even if the chance of reading seems remote, because one just never knows when a little window of free time might pop up like it did that one lovely day.  This morning, I knew the chances of downtime were unlikely when I left the house, but I brought my book anyway, and it proved serendipitous.  I arrived at a client's office for a meeting only to find he was running late, so I sauntered on in and made myself at home on his sofa with my book.  I would have gone slightly insane at those ten wasted minutes but for the chance to tuck back into a compelling story.

More than just the stolen reading moments though, I treasure the conversations that are sparked by the presence of the books.  Usually, it is just a bystander stopping to smile at the three of us with us books tucked under our arms as we walk into a waiting room, but sometimes a stranger will remark upon our choice of books, asking whether we have read anything else by the author perhaps, or regaling us with a story of why they enjoyed the same particular book.

I can talk about books all day long.  With anyone.

Today, when my client walked into the office, I tucked a bookmark into A Little Life and set it aside on the conference room table.  Another client popped his head into the room and pointed at my book. "What do you think so far?" he said, "The reviews have gone crazy for it, but a friend said it was very dark and it just made him uncomfortable."  

I was simultaneously dumbfounded and thrilled.  Here was a man I had worked with - at a distance, mind you - for a couple of years, and I had no idea he was a fellow book nerd. 

This, THIS, is why we should never go anywhere without a book.  Book nerds are the best, and they make me feel less alone in this bizarro world.

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

Among the Ten Thousand Things is a startling novel about a family falling apart in the aftermath of an affair. Told from the points of view of both spouses would have been interesting enough, but what makes this debut novel such a standout is how the story unfolds in the eyes of the children. The misplaced anger of the teenager, along with the confusion and distress of the 11-year-old daughter, are painful and a little disturbing, but are presented with remarkable insight and clarity. The adults are a bit more one-dimensional, and I was never totally sure whether that was a purposeful move. The story briefly jumps ahead in time twice, offering a glimpse of how the affair ends up informing the children even as they grow into adulthood.

John Green is a master of YA fiction, and Looking for Alaska is a multiple award-winning standout in the category. The book's action centers around the relationships between Pudge, the narrator, his roommate, The Colonel, and their enigmatic, alluring friend Alaska. Tension builds early, as time is counted down towards an as yet undefined event, but which the reader knows will be A Big Deal. Boarding school students, clever pranks, interesting characters, teen angst, high drama, great wit, and a devastating defining moment all collaborate together to form one heck of a compelling story. However - and this is an important distinction, I think - this novel would fall a little flat for those readers who are not fans of the technicolor world of young adult fiction.

The Lake House is an epic, sweeping mystery packed with interesting characters, complex plotting, and a magical, well-drawn setting. Kate Morton's books are known for their uber-suprising twists at the end, and this one is no exception. A complaint I hear often about her books is that everything gets tied up nice and neat at the end - too neat, in the view of some readers - and while I understand the vexation over this (I myself prefer a loose end or two to be left to my imagination at the end), I am willing to suspend disbelief when it comes to Morton. Her mysteries are so well-written, and so expertly developed, and, in the case of The Lake House, so thoughtful and suspenseful at the same time. The book begins slowly, almost ploddingly for the first 100 pages, as Morton develops the characters and the multiple plot lines, but it is well worth sticking with as the next 400-ish pages are pure joy to read.

The third book in The Series of Unfortunate Events, The Wide Window is a darkly entertaining, utterly hilarious, very intelligently written children's story. In this installment, the Baudelaire orphans are once again moved to another new home in which horrible things happen and the evil Count Olaf, as you already suspected, shows up to commit heinous deeds. The historical references in this one are particularly absurd and comical, as are the vocabulary and grammar lessons that are woven in at the just the right times. These books beg to be read-aloud, and even the 12-year-old in our house has insinuated himself into story time in order to enjoy them along with the eight-year-old. Indeed, my older child laughs the loudest of all. As I have said about the previous two books in the series, I do not think these books are for sensitive children, but my children find them enthralling.

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1 comment:

Rachel said...

I LOVE to read and thanks SO much for the recommendations!!