Saturday, October 22, 2011

Someday a Marathon-er

No, not a running/jogging/biking/excruciating-amount-of-exercising marathoner.  Like that would ever happen.  Rather, someday when the kids are older and I'm not working on Saturdays, I want to participate in Dewey's Read-a-thon. Can you imagine anything better than devoting an entire 24-hour block of time to reading?  Nope. I can't either.  Reading marathons are my idea of heaven.

I've taken a little break from my blog.  There's been too much going on in my personal life and I've just felt like hunkering down and not interacting with the world. But, I've missed nattering on about what books I've been reading, so I'm back.

One of the sources of stress lately is that we're probably going to be moving in the next few months (we're going to become official homeowners--which is a good thing), but I feel like our apartment looks like this:

Now, I know this is not true.  I haven't crossed over into hoarderdom quite yet.  But, the thought of moving all my books for the 7th time in 8 years makes me break into a cold sweat.  So, lately I've cut down on the library book consumption and have just focused on plowing through the tomes populating my living room, bedroom and hallway.

What I've discovered from this venture is that I apparently purchased a lot of books at the Friends of the Library book sales before the advent of Goodreads, Bookmarks magazine, the blogging community, etc.  How did I ever pick out books to read before this?  Apparently my methods sucked, because as I'm reading through them I'm either finishing them and sighing "meh" or chucking them back into the donation pile after 50 pages.  How embarrassing!  These books have been lining my shelves for years and they're not even that good!

Here's a quick rundown, so you don't make the same mistakes I did:

What We Keep by Elizabeth Berg
This book wasn't terrible.  A grown daughter is flashbacking to the summer her mom got sick of her June Cleaver existence and did something about it. But, I couldn't decide if the narrator's voice was supposed to be her 12-year-old self (in which case, entirely unbelievable) or her 47-year-old self (in which case, annoying).  The dissatisfied housewife theme has been done so many times and by so many better authors that the result is an utterly forgettable novel.

Little Children by Tom Perotta
Jeez. I hated every single character in this book.  But maybe that was the point.  It was humorous, but I just wanted to slap everyone.  Basically, a bunch of parents in their thirties make every possible bad life decision. It was a well-constructed novel (themes of Madame Bovary running throughout) and like I said, funny, but I couldn't get past how morally bankrupt the characters were.  And I'm not prude, I promise.  Not really.  People who've read this book are totally going to think I'm the sanctimonious "Mary Ann" character.

A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler
I am an Anne Tyler fan.  She is my go-to comfort read.  But this one just wasn't one of her best.  Barnaby is a black-sheep who marries and divorces young and just can't seem to get his life together.  I think I haven't been in a very forgiving mood lately because I just wanted to slap all the women in his life and then pick him up by his scruffy jacket and shake him (although he is a really good guy who works for Rent-a-Back and helps out senior citizens and comes a long way throughout the course of the novel).

Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
Oh Anna Quindlen. You are so mean to your characters.  I can't handle it!  Although, I guess that's what you sign up for when you read a book about a battered woman.  I left the narrative feeling awful and then angry about feeling awful because while I didn't need a tidy happily-ever-after there was just too much over the top bad stuff.  More than necessary.  (Did we really need the ferris wheel scene?  Totally could have furthered the plot in a different way. . .)

Blue Like Jazz: Non-religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller
On the back of the book, he's billed as Anne Lamott with testosterone.  He's not.  He comes off as a really immature, privileged white kid who hasn't lived enough to be offering the kind of spiritual advice that he's doling out left and right.  He's obnoxious.  If he were a real-life acquaintance, it would take every ounce of my self-reserve not to break out the duct tape and stop the flow of self-absorbed navel-gazing.  Although, to be fair, in high school I would have totally had a crush on him.  I was all about self-absorbed navel-gazing back then.

The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell
I enjoyed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.  It was dark and gothic and interesting. But, I only made it through the first fifty pages of this one before I threw in the towel.  Flashbacks. Lots of flashbacks (maybe I just need to avoid books that use this device).  Plus it flows from one character to the other (through space and time) without much introduction so I kept feeling like I had missed something.  Has anyone read this?  Should I give it another try?

I'm taking a break from reading off my home shelves to finish two YA novels that have been endlessly recommended to me, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King and Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. Here's hoping I return to you in a less pissy frame of mind.

Marathon forth, blogosphere!


  1. I enjoyed your pissy state of mind. If only more book reviewers talked about wanting to slap characters! I'll look forward to your reviews of the two YA books - I never read any of the ones I come across at the library because I can't tell which ones are cheesy. But I know there's good YA books out there!

  2. I recently moved too, and packing and carrying all the books was so much! I got ride of a few ahead of time, bit it didn't seem to make a difference! So many books :)

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment on my blog during the readathon yesterday -- I hope you will get to participate someday :)

  3. Éire--if you can wade through all the vampire novels, there are some pretty decent YA books out there.

    Kim--moving books is the worst. I've gotten rid of some books, too, but it hasn't even made a dent. I guess I need to invest in a good dolly or see if I can lay my hands on one of those library book trucks for the move. Glad you enjoyed the Read-a-thon, btw!

  4. Having just had to pack up all our books in prepartion for home renovations that included throwing out all our old bookcases and getting new ones, I can empathize with you totally.

    We have the new bookcases, but have not yet gone through all our books, though we did make some headway and the library benefitted handsomely :)

  5. Good luck with your move. Maybe this will be the last one! The only one of the books you listed which I've read is the AT. Here's what I jotted down five years ago:
    "At first I liked the story, but I found myself slogging through the last part of the book. I didn't like any of the characters, and it felt like there was no growth or change in the main character."
    I've never been able to read any AQ fiction books, though I really love her nonfiction writing. I don't like her fictional themes, much as I don't care for Jodi Picoult. (oops should I whisper that? She seems to be SO popular)

  6. @TheBookGirl--oooh new bookcases! I'm jealous!

    @Nan--Thanks. We've got an offer in on a house and hopefully it will go through and we're done with all this moving for a looong time.

    Yep--that's exactly how I felt about the Tyler book, too. No character growth. Which is disappointing, especially since her writing style is very character driven. I'm not a Jodi Picoult fan either. I've only read My Sister's Keeper, but it irritated me so much I vowed never to touch another one. I think I'm done with Anna Quindlen, too.