Tuesday, June 14, 2016

in which most books have too many narrators

My book choices were drawn from many places this month - I really tried to bring some new offerings to the link-up, but when it's your turn for a hold at the library, you have to pick it up. Several stories were told using multiple narrators, and quite honestly, I'm tired of that trend. I'll specifically look for books in the next few weeks that keep with one POV the whole way through. Unless it's my time for something I've been waiting for... no promises.

Maybe good for you, but not for me:

Dept. of Speculation - What the hell, you guys? You know how sometimes you come across a social media account for someone you kind of know, so you go down the rabbit hole of being inside their mind for like, ten minutes, and then you get bored so you move on? This book made me feel like that, only I was stuck with it for far longer than ten minutes (though it was quite short, for a book). It's a spillage of thoughts - some beautiful, but many mundane - and there was no characterization or description. Readers had to infer some of the action, and the main character just felt like a disembodied voice. The POV changed about halfway through so I kept reading to see if I could understand why, but it never happened. I wanted a book I could get lost in, and this definitely wasn't that kind. It was far too jagged and real.

Lilac Girls - Another book with fascinating subject matter that didn't work for me. This book takes place just before, during, and after WWII and is told from the points of view of an American socialite with ties to Paris, a female Nazi doctor at a concentration camp (I use that word loosely as she conducted horrific experiments on women in the camp), and a young Polish woman sent to the concentration camp in which the doctor works. The first two characters were based on real people. I hated the socialite's storyline and too much time was wasted describing people at parties that did nothing for the plot. The way the doctor went from being a normal, albeit brainwashed German Nazi supporter to a blind follower of Hitler conducting experiments and causing pain would have been an interesting plot point to speculate on and dive into, but it was glossed over. The Polish woman's storyline was the one I liked reading about the most, but it was so sad that it's hard to say I really enjoyed it. The subject matter is something that needs to be remembered, but I don't think this book is the way to do that.

If I had to describe it in a word, it would be "fine."

What She Knew - The story of a woman whose young son has been kidnapped should have been engrossing, but this suffered from poor characterization. The plot was good enough with some twists thrown in to keep the reader guessing, but I just didn't care for the mother of the missing boy like I should have. It was an okay read, but I don't think anyone should drop everything to grab it.

Hidden Bodies - (Skip to the next book if you haven't already read You and you plan to.) I really liked You so I was pumped to read this book. I guess what I liked about You - Joe basically stalking Beck via social media and becoming who she wanted - would have been boring in a second book. I get that. But I still didn't like Hidden Bodies that much. I felt like Joe was less of himself and I got tired of the formula that he thought something awful was going to happen and he was wrong. I get that it was set in LA, but the pop culture references were too frequent and too current and distracting to me. In You, I cheered for Joe despite him being a horrible person and a murderer. This time around, I found myself hoping he would get caught. Also? Love is an annoying character and I was ready for her to die after about 20 pages.

Consider these:

(A) All This Life- While I could have gone without the author really, blatantly driving his point home at the end (please trust that your readers are intelligent!), I liked this book. As a blogger and person who says she lives much of her life on the internet, I appreciated so many of the sentiments - that life should be lived and the personal connections we make matter far more than the people who live inside our phones and provide passing likes and notices of our being. This book is told from different points of view using characters who are only tangentially connected. Each one is interesting and relateable and was at a place in life with something going on that I wanted to hear about, from a dead sister to a released sex tape to being a runaway mom.

(A) All There Is - I love NPR and slices of life, so this was perfect for me. This book was put out by StoryCorps, which is a public radio initiative that encourages listeners to bring a loved one to one of their locations to talk about love. A copy of the conversation is sent to the Library of Congress and visitors are given another. All There Is is made of stories people have shared in this project about falling in love or losing their love. It made me smile and almost made me cry. The audiobook was really unique in that it sounded like a show on NPR and the actual recordings were used to tell the story; from what I gathered on Goodreads, they were transcribed in the book. I think hearing the emotion and the accents added a lot. Best of all, the book is 150 pages or one hour as an audiobook, so I knocked it out on a particularly traffic heavy drive. A few of the stories were fantastic and will stay with me.

(A) Necessary Lies - Apparently, as recently as the 1960s, poor women were sterilized without their consent in the United States. Necessary Lies is the story of a poor teenager and her family and the social worker who is supposed to get her sterilized simply because she is poor and deemed too simple to ever life a life outside of the welfare system. There are plenty of books about racism during this time period, but I have never encountered anything that examines relationships between social classes. The story is told in alternating viewpoints, so you get both sides, and I really liked hearing about the social worker's marriage and how she tried to juggle working and being a wife when that was rarely done. This definitely had moments where I didn't want to stop listening.

Halfway through the year and I haven't found too many books that I love enough to shout from the rooftops. I'm currently reading The Nest and just got LaRose as an audiobook, so perhaps one of those will be something I can't get out of my head. Linking up with Steph and Jana so I can see what everyone else has been reading.

Life According to Steph

Thursday, June 2, 2016

what's new with you: may

May was a good month. I'm glad I'm taking the time to document some of it because it makes my Grinchy heart smile to see how much time I spent with friends - I didn't realize that until I sat down and typed this up. I love that I check in everywhere on Swarm and take a lot of pictures on my phone (mostly of food, you've been warned) to remember everything.

I started the month with a long (and long overdue) dinner at Good Dog Houston with Miranda and Sarah. My neighborhood started doing Food Truck Fridays once a month, so Andrew and I went and met my friend's friends our friends Beth and Nate who live in our neighborhood and stood in too long lines for eh food, but it was nice getting to know them two-on-two since we have always seen them in group before. We tried ice cream from a cart and the salted caramel latte ice cream was definitely worth eating again. The four of us went to our favorite bar that night and had a great time getting to know them better and listening to music.

Flowers for no reason from Andrew at work | fries, fizzy mint lemonade, and a hot dog with provolone, mixed greens, and giardiniera | Houston friends, if you see this ice cream cart, stop!

Andrew and I spent a day looking for sausage and spices for his ongoing barbecue endeavors and I thought Penzey's had the cutest set-up. I wanted to spend tons of money on things I didn't need. One of my friends and I checked out the new donut/breakfast/coffee shop in town on its first day and though there are kinks to work out, I loved my latte. I went for a long walk through downtown and caught the Bunny Invasion art installation - huge inflatable bunnies that you could hug and touch. They were so weird but fun.

Doesn't the kitchen set up make you want to bake? | Instagram repost but I love latte art | the bunnies! That ear was taller than the second floor of the building.

I casually mentioned to my friend Hayley that I really wanted to go see Dave Matthews Band in concert three days before they came to town. Andrew didn't want to go since he has seen them more times than I have, but I was dying to since we didn't see them last year and they aren't touring next year. Hayley and I agreed on an amount we were willing to spend per ticket, and by the end of the day, tickets were purchased (for less than face value!). It was such a fun girls' night with wine and good music and I'm so glad we went. I was dying to hear You and Me OR Cornbread OR #41 and they didn't play any of them but proceeded to play all three in Dallas the next night so I was a little bitter, but it was still an amazing show with three new songs, a Prince cover, and some great ones I hadn't heard live before. We've already made plans to see them in 2018!

Pre-show | Not bad seats for the last minute!

Andrew wanted barbecue and we had nothing better to do, so we decided to drive out to Killen's BBQ on a random Saturday. It ended up being extra fun because Sarah and her husband and their (eighteen-ish? month, super adorable) daughter were able to meet us and there was a burger pop-up, so I didn't have to eat barbecue. All good things.

May also means graduation, which means working on a Saturday. But, after that was done, I finally got to meet Kate (you might remember her blog having to do with a slate being clean...) in person after being blog friends for like... a few years? So that was fun! She invited Andrew and me to a baseball game with her and her boyfriend and the Astros lost, which was a bummer,  but she and I spent our time judging the actions of others, which made the game more fun. We got to take them to Okra, one of our favorite bars, where I drank $5 rose and recognized the bartender from another bar I like to go to outside of a coffee shop and accosted him for not being at work in his own bar. No more rose for me...

The brand new Killen Burger | Good seats! | Glad Kate took a pic because I forgot! That feeling when you meet someone you already know... | BBQ spread

It rained a ton in Houston, I was sick for two days in one week, and we spent lots of time cleaning the house since Andrew's sister came to visit for Memorial Day weekend and his other sister and her daughter came over to eat - you guessed it - more barbecue. It was fun to host everyone but exhausting and remind me that I should keep more paper plates on hand because dishes are the worst.

Next month, I have the ATX Festival to look forward to (Friday Night Lights party ON Panther Field!), our sixth wedding anniversary, and the rest of Andrew's family coming to visit (and eating our way through Houston with them) so I'm already excited for June.

What's New With You