February was a rough reading month for me. I was busy-ish, too-often sick (in the light hurts/reading’s out way) and working diligently on a sewing project I have going. All in all, I only finished two books that month, and only liked one of them: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson, which I gave up on twice before ultimately committing to and reading. It wasn’t my favorite, too often jumping around just as I was getting invested in the plot; truthfully, I can’t remember many details and don’t think I will recommend it. It was good enough to finish, but did not live up to my expectations. It was supposed to be “weird” and “quirky” and “different”. Not so much.
In March, I had only slightly better success, book-wise. It’s funny: I have one book in my bag that I’ve been carrying since January, and while I like it and will finish it, I just never seem to be in the mood to sit down and read it. I’ve been picking off 10 pages or so at a time, usually on the bus. And not to be cryptic– the book is Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moavani, a memoir of the author’s return to Iran as a journalist and her subsequent marriage to a man she meets there, and it is good, I really do like it. I just don’t ever seem to want to read it. The same is true for Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson; I started reading February 8th and *will* finish this month, but it shouldn’t be taking me this long. I also started That Used to Be Us by Friedman and Mandelbaum a few weeks ago and had to return it to the library Saturday after just 90 pages, so who knows when I will pick that up again…
But let’s talk about the positives. Let’s talk about Dorie Greenspan! I hope that a few of you were lucky enough to grab the $5.87 bundle of Baking: From My Home to Yours and Around My French Table from Amazon.com last Thursday; after hearing about it from some fellow bloggers, I grabbed one and then did my part to share the link love. Man, am I glad I jumped on that deal! What amazing cookbooks these are: R & I spent a few hours Saturday poring over the volumes, shouting out recipes we wanted to make and then changing our minds almost instantly in favor of another. My meal plan this week is all based on those books– not necessarily exact recipes, but ideas and flavor combinations, etc. An incredible find, an incredible value, and books I know will be well-worn over the years to come.
In March, I read three novels that were good enough to recommend; the first is The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. I know, from the length of the queue at the library, that this little slip of a book is popular right now, and I guess that a lot of that has to do with his Booker Prize win. I have a strict policy of avoiding reviews before starting a book, particularly one with this much current attention, so I was shocked after finishing to read so many mixed reviews. I adored this book. I liked the main character, found his voice true and believable and properly flawed, and I enjoyed the build-up to and resolution of the main story line. I would be curious to hear from anyone else who has read The Sense of an Ending what they thought.
Secondly, I read What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander, a collection of short stories. A few were mind-blowing to me, and I read a lot of short story collections. Though I didn’t connect with or enjoy all of them, I remember so many details of each story, which is rare; there are too many collections I finish on a Friday and can’t answer questions about come Monday morning. Particularly memorable were “Camp Sundown”, which was eerie and disturbing in an unexpected way; “Sister Hills”, with two mothers arguing over an issue with no easy resolution; and a story of which I have, sadly, forgotten the title about an author reading in my beloved Elliott Bay reading room, though the story is so much more than that. This collection is one you should pick up.
And most recently, I picked up The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much; perhaps I was fooled by its tininess, or the unassuming cover. This was absolutely a case of “good things come in small packages”. The novel was told from the perspective of mostly anonymous Japanese women who had come to California to marry: some were happy, others not; some were mothers, others maids or shopkeepers; some had tragic stories and others made the most of a very foreign place. All were eventually affected by Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which called for the imprisonment of all people of Japanese heritage in in “relocation centers”, which we now know as internment camps. Though the narrator is a constant voice, the unnamed women, despite their wildly varied experiences, are given a haunting sense of group, or community, or togetherness, while remaining distinct– a hard concept to explain, let alone accomplish successfully in a novel. A quick read, but well worth your time and highly recommended by this reader.
So, with one quarter of the reading year past, I am on track to meet my reading goal of 60 books, and looking forward to some exciting books up soon on my to-read list. And… I vow to finish everything I have started so far. Promise.