Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer Reading

Since everyone around me (under the age of 21, anyway) is wading through vast lists of required books, tackling their summer reading assignments as best they can, I thought I'd do a little post on my own summer reading. The subject of today's post may or may not have anything to do with the fact that the problems I discussed in last week's post are still unfortunately relevant, or with the fact that I seem to be suffering from an alarming lack of motivation this season, and am having difficulty making myself do much of anything besides reading.

(Is it just me, or is everyone suffering from the same issue right now? It's like the summer version of SAD - working, writing, and any other activity not involving playing outside or reading make me depressed. No? Just me? Oh. Moving on, then.)

It's a possibility that these things are affecting my posts right now. Perhaps.

At any rate, I've gotten a ton of reading done this summer. Here's what I've been tackling myself:

The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

Gasp, what's this??? I'm reading MG?? I KNOW, it's amazing! I think all of my blogging buddies are finally wearing off on me. (Ok, and my partner is a teacher, and made me read this.) I admit I was a little hesitant at first, but I loved it. It's the story of a gorilla named Ivan, and a baby elephant named Ruby, and it is smart, funny, sad, and extremely well done. My one complaint is that it starts off very slow - I wish I could edit the first fifty or so pages - but once it gets into the main action, it's so wonderful and heart-strings-pulling that the slow start doesn't matter. I may, in fact, have cried at the end. Maybe.


Kissing the Witch, by Emma Donoghue

This was described to me by a client as 'gay fairy tales', which is only half-true, and that's if I'm being generous. These are fairy tales, but they're about as gay as the originals (i.e. a few hints, but not much else). What they are, in fact, are Donoghue's retelling of the classics. They are funny, desperate, and terribly sad; they are imaginatively wrought and gorgeously written; and each one is brief and lovely and engaging, so that you can read one tale in a few minutes, or delve into the whole world for a few thoughtful, wonderful hours. Oh, and as for the gay part - there are tiny mentions of same-sex relationships in two of the thirteen stories, so if that sort of thing offends you...oh, read it anyway. It's very brief, not remotely graphic, and quite lovely.


Truth and Beauty, by Ann Patchett

I am becoming a huge Ann Patchett fan in my old age; I also read her collection of essays recently, but as I already talked about that, I'll leave them out for now (but go read them. Seriously.) This one is another piece of non-fiction: it's about the late writer Lucy Grealy, and Ann's friendship with her. Like everything Patchett writes, this is engaging and very funny, with gems of hidden beauty and truth (yes, I may have done that on purpose), and also heartbreaking. I lost my dearest friend, also a writer, years ago, and this book was in some ways like reading our story, too.


Atonement, by Ian McEwan

Ok, confession time. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but in the spirit of honesty that I try to maintain on this blog, here goes: I know this is an award-winning book, and is considered a masterpiece by many; but I cannot get through it. Yes, the writing is wonderful, and the characters are so clearly drawn that they spring off of the page; yes, it's literary and character-driven, and therefore a bit slow; but I still can't get through it. I like slow, literary books sometimes, but this one is so slow that I feel like I'm suffering from the same heatstroke as the characters. Plus, when things do start to happen, they're so awful and so frustrating and unfair that I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend they're not happening. Which is what I've actually been doing, since I stopped reading it and have yet to pick it back up. Not without a good bit of shame, I should add.


I've also been revisiting The Dragonriders of Pern series for my annual dose of nostalgic childhood reading, and it's providing the wonderful, engaging escape that I hoped it would. I have realized, though, that my summer reading list is made up of Western white people. How did that happen??? I need to diversify, and I'll gladly take suggestions!

What are you reading this summer? Any recommendations? Should I keep reading Atonement, or give up completely?

48 comments:

  1. Did you know Warner Brothers is making a Dragonriders movie?

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    1. I did, but I thought it was just a rumor!! I am now going to scour the internet for this one :)

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  2. I definitely understand--it's hard for me to do anything but read lately, too.

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  3. LOL! I can't get through some award winners either. Seriously. The Book Thief? I'd be all excited that something was coming and then Death would straight up tell me what was going to happen. No surprises. Crappy ending. Seriously. I do not read for this kind of experience. Anyhow, so I totally understand not getting into an award winner. =)

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    1. Ha, yes, exactly! Thanks for backing me up :) I feel better about my dislike of the book, now, LOL.

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  4. I couldn't read Atonement either. I tried. But it was boring. Didn't like the movie much either.

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    1. Ok, good to know that the movie isn't going to enthrall me, either!

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  5. I've been feeling unusually down, too. I think some sunlight exposure would help, but I don't think that's all it is. I am better after I got some new furniture. I have a comfortable place to lounge with the fam and I'm not embarrassed for people to walk in my house anymore. (Not kidding. It was bare a horrible looking before.)

    I love to see what other are reading. I've discovered Grace Burrowes' Lonely Lords series (regency romance). Her characters have some awfully funny lines. :P

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    1. Retail therapy? But also space therapy, I think, and I hear you on that one. It's so important to feel GOOD when you get home. Here's hoping we both feel better soon!

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  6. The beautiful weather outside is making it VERY difficult for me to concentrate on my writing. I'm barely keeping up with blogging. Reading on the front porch is just too tempting.

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    1. Yes!!! Me too!!! Oh, it IS a relief to know I'm not the only one.

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  7. I've been reading mostly indie published books lately, but I did scarf down Night Broken by Patricia Briggs pretty quickly a few days ago. Reading is good. It stirs the juices. :)

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    1. Ok, I'll add that one to my list - thanks!

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  8. I recently read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Seed by Ania Ahlborn. Enjoyed them both. I hadn't heard of Atonement but based on how you're struggling with it, I think I'll skip it. Life's too short! I only read books I disliked when it was required reading in school. Now, I only read for enjoyment.

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    1. I love Adichie - I've read some of her stories. That's a good idea, to pick up Americanah. Thank you! And yes, skip the unlikable classics, I say ;)

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  9. I am getting over the shingles but i can relate about not getting involved in what I love to do. I have been poor in my card making. I don't feel my creative juices flowing. I am trying but feel like there is this big black ball in front of me and i can't move it away. The book about the ape and the elephant sounds sweet but i hope they don't die...I hate that when that happens. As for Atonement? I have not read it but I have seen the movie..zzzzzzzz......oh sorry I was just remembering the movie. DULL! I get what bhappened and it sounds interesting but I'd rather watch paint dry and you will never see me picking up that book....zzzzzzz....oh what was i saying as I was trying to recall that movie again:)

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    1. LOL, you always crack me up!!! Ok, spoiler alert - the ape and the baby elephant do NOT die. It has a happy ending. So yes, read it!!

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  10. I think summer is just about as bad as December for me in terms of staying focused on my writing. It doesn't help that I feel overwhelmed with how much I need to accomplish this season and that I have a November deadline for a retreat for a book that I haven't even had time to work on this summer.
    But...I loved hearing what you're reading. I haven't read The One and Only Ivan, though I know I should. The Ann Patchett book sounds amazing too.
    I'm the same way about award winners/best sellers. I often find that I'm not on the same page as "everyone" who loves something. In fact, most of my favorites are lesser-known titles.

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    1. You know, it's amazing how comforting it is to hear someone else say that it's hard to motivate in the summer, too. Thank you! I hope you do read a couple of these; they're wonderful :)

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  11. I went off the reservation last week and at the recommendation of a friend I read a m/m dark romance. Can I just say, WOW? I would never have thought I would enjoy the the storyline involving two young men in a relationship, but the story really worked. Though if you don't like to cry at endings, don't read it! Very dark.

    I usually go through spells of only reading or only writing. It'll pick back up! :)

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    1. Wow, I wouldn't normally gravitate towards that, either, but it sounds really intriguing! What's the title?

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  12. Kissing the Witch sounds good. I'll have to remember that. Unfortunately, I don't have any good recommendations for you. All my recent reads have been lamentably weak.

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    1. No worries!! Read Kissing the Witch - it's not weak :)

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  13. I've heard nothing but good stuff about The One and Only Ivan, and it looks like it'd make me shed a tear or two too. MG books always make me cry! Do you ever read Regency Romance? I love Marion Chesney's books. I don't read a lot of adult fiction but one of my fav adult reads is Water for Elephants. Great book!

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    1. Yes, it will make you cry - you should read it!!! I also love Water for Elephants (and that's another tear-jerker :) )

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  14. Ha! I couldn't get through Atonement either. I ended up watching the movie to see what happens. And thanks for some recommendations. I do like reading MG and YA. Often those novels have more heart in them than adult novels. Sometimes that's just what I need to read. :)

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    1. That's a great way to put it. They DO have more heart, sometimes. This one has a ton :)

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  15. I hear you on the summertime making anything involving the computer depressing. For those of us living in the North, it's just how it is. You gotta charge up on sun and outdoor activities while you have the chance. The cold dark winter days will be upon us soon enough, so might as well enjoy summer. At least you are reading! Thanks for the recommendations, and the warning!

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    1. HA! Thank you!! This is just the reminder I needed that it's OK to be a little less productive during these fleeting summer days :)

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  16. I say if you dislike a book that much, stop reading it. I've stopped reading two books in the past week or so because I just wasn't enjoying them. If you're not obligated to read it, and you're not enjoying it, there's nothing wrong with stopping.

    As for my summer reading, I recently read books two and three of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, which is basically the Napoleonic War with dragons. ^_^ Good stuff, if a bit wordy because of the how the POV character thinks and speaks. I've started rereading "Dies the Fire" by S. M. Stirling, highly recommended - it's about what happens when all electricity and gunpowder and other modern technology simply stops working. The series is at 10 or 11 books now, and it's really good stuff.

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    1. Very good point. I don't often put down a book, though - I've had too many experiences of plugging through and finding at the end that it was worth the effort to read! But this one I just might drop.

      Thanks for the recs!!

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  17. I remember 'required summer reading'... And some of those books I read because I *had* to ended up being my favorites. Now I have a couple to add to my list. You might try some of the Japanese novels. There's a classic series about the hero, Musashi (heck, everyone in Japan writes about him!) Go forth and search. ...And I agree with Mason T. Matchak - if you really don't enjoy a book, stop reading it.

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    1. Thank you!! I'd never heard of that classic story. I will definitely look it up.

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  18. Not every book is for every person. And not every book is for every time of life. I've got young kids so right now I need books I can read for two minutes at a time (generally locked in the bathroom). There are other books (slower, more literary) that I will probably like at a later point in time, when I can read them with more consistency. Don't feel bad, there are lots of books and not enough time to read them all. Find the ones that work for you now.

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    1. LOL. Yeah, small chunks work well with young kids!! Thank you for the encouragement, and the very reasonable excuse to stop feeling badly.

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  19. That is a good list you've got there. I've started to read The One and Only Ivan but got sidetracked and started reading other books. My TBR shelf is overflowing (metaphorically speaking), and instead of feeling excited, I feel a little overwhelmed. :( August is right around the corner (tomorrow, eeks!), and with it, the start of fall. I'm hoping I can catch up by then!

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    1. Oh, pick it back up! It's worth it :)

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  20. Hmm, reading through your descriptions and the use of the words sad & heartbreaking, I wonder...perhaps your reading choices are making things depressing! The book I review on my blog today is also Middle Grade & is all about diversity (of the monster sort). It's a fun romp without sadness or heartbreak. ;)

    I'm having the opposite problem from you in that I am in the midst of reading no less than 7 books! My brain just can't seem to stay still long enough to commit to any one of them.

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    1. LOL, fair point! I do tend to read sad stories. I don't know why! It's certainly not my intention, but I end up with them anyway.

      7 books??? Sheesh! I'd be so confused trying to keep 7 plots and characters straight...

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  21. So many good books! I haven't read Atonement, but after the movie I'm not terribly inclined to pick it up (I know, I know, never judge a book by it's movie, but it was so sad and frustrating!). But if you're not enjoying it, life's too short to stick with a book, imho!

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    1. Well, I dunno, many people have commented here that the movie is JUST LIKE the book, so in this case, I think staying away from the book is a good decision!

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  22. I'll have to check these out -- even ATONEMENT. Currently, I'm in the middle of 'SALEM'S LOT by Stephen King and DEAD MAN'S HAND edited by John Joseph Adams. Good stuff, all around. So much to read, though, and so little time.

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    1. I haven't read SALEM'S LOT, actually, though I've read many other of his books. I know, my TBR list is endless!

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  23. Ann Patchett owns the local independent bookstore that supports all of the Nashville authors. It's SUCH a charming bookstore--she's never there, though, of course. Other people run it.

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    1. I know!!! I swear, I want her life. I wish I owned a successful local bookstore.

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  24. I loved The One and Only Ivan.

    Have you seen the movie Atonement? It's amazing.

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