Sunday, September 03, 2017

August Retrospective

1) The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene - My brother-in-law is a big fan of Graham Greene. I read Brighton Rock a few years ago because of the many references to the characters in the book in the Morrissey song "Now My Heart is Full." I didn't particularly like Brighton Rock, but I have since seen Greene's work pop up in the Rabbit Room Store and I generally admire the selections curated by the folks at Rabbit Room. So because my brother-in-law knows I read Brighton Rock, he keeps asking me what other Greene I have read. I decided I'd better get on the stick! The Power and the Glory is the selection I am most certain Rabbit Room has given their stamp of approval to, so that's the one I chose. It's the kind of book I would like to discuss with other people. There's definitely something there, I would just be interested in hashing through what that is.

2) Beartown by Fredrik Backman - This is another selection from Modern Mrs. Darcy's Minimalist Summer Reading Guide. I read A Man Called Ove and liked it okay so I figured it couldn't hurt to give the author another try. But I don't recommend this one. While it is very well written, and one feels the author has tremendous empathy and insight with all of his characters, it's such a downer. It's dark and heavy and tragic in a frighteningly realistic way. I couldn't wait for it to be over. But again, Backman struck me many times as being a very gifted writer- I will look forward to reading something else of his again.

3) The Greenglass House by Kate Milford- This selection is another from Modern Mrs. Darcy's list that came out in May: 15 Books About Endearingly Quirky Families. So far the list has mostly been a fail for me. And I'm feeling very similarly about her summer reading guides. Basically, we're about to break up with Modern Mrs. Darcy unless something changes drastically over the next month while I finish her recommendations from my list. Look at the cover of this book. What a fantastic cover! My husband and children all remarked on how much they loved the cover. And the idea for the book is also one that draws you in right away: The Greenglass House is an inn owned and occupied by the Pine family. Milo Pine is an only child and is very much looking forward to a nice relaxing Christmas break at home when an unexpected guest arrives at the inn. Within the space of an afternoon, four more guests arrive at the inn! Why are they all here? None of them will say. And mysterious things start happening... So, you can see this should be a great book. But it's not. It felt slow and uneventful, even though things were moving along. Was it a problem with the writing or what? I just didn't care about the characters or the mystery.  I kept looking ahead to see how many more pages were left.

4) The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn - This selection is from Modern Mrs. Darcy's Summer Reading Guide in the History section. She called it "a Jane Austen time travel novel that's actually good." I had no idea Jane Austen time travel novels were even a thing! But naturally, I was intrigued! Well, let me stop you right there. It's not good. It's actually pretty awful. The writing is embarrassingly bad and crass in multiple places. It goes from mediocre Austen fan fiction to grocery store rack romance novel on quite a few occasions. And if one can get past this and go along with the story anyway (heck, we already went along with the whole time travel premise and overlooked the ridiculous portrait of Austen as some sort of modern, only nominally religious figure trapped in a time she has no real connection to- though both of these things could have been done and have been done much worse), the ending is unsatisfying to say the least. As the Roots would say, "Do not read, do not read, do not read this book, this book."

5) The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson - This one is also from the Modern Mrs. Darcy Minimalist Summer Reading Guide. By the time I got to this book, I was good and ready to break up with Modern Mrs. Darcy once and for all. But I was unaware that I was going to be treated to a story set in the South. I am so homesick at this point that the cliche descriptions of sweet tea, cornbread, and biscuits completely won me over. Reading the way the townspeople and church community interacted with one another was like listening to an old song I hadn't heard in years. It wasn't the best book I have ever read or anything, but it was refreshing and most certainly the best book I read this month. I will look forward to picking up more of Jackson's work to read in the future.

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