Very Small Reviews of Many Books

I haven’t really been around, dear book blog, and for that I apologize. Luckily, I’ve been reading a lot, so I’m going to try to go over everything I’ve missed!

Before I go into the reviews, I just wanted to say that a) I got a job a few months ago. I’m now an employed person. So at least I have a legitimate reason for slackin’ on the blog, although I’m pretty sure I was consistently slackin’ on the blog when I was looking for a job, too. Basically I’m a slacker to my very core, but at least someone’s paying me now. b) I graduated college a year ago! That’s what’s up! *settles into adulthood like a snuggie*

Oh, also, I saw The Fault in Our Stars movie, and I found the teenage girls in the audience absolutely terrifying. The movie was good. I remember watching a YouTube livestream of John Green reading the first chapter of his new novel. I don’t even know if it had a title yet, maybe it did, but I remember watching it. And now it’s like this gigantic movie. Cool, cool.

Now for the reviews. Oh boy. There’s a lot. I should say I’ve been reading a lot because I take the train to work. It’s awesome. I like my commute more than I like my job. Not because I don’t like my job, but I just really like getting to read every day in the morning and then again after work to decompress. I don’t think I’ve had a real rhythm with my reading habits like this since I was a kid, when my rhythm was reading non-stop and doing nothing else except when forced.

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughter-House Five
5/5 stars

This is a re-read, and I’m very glad I re-read it because I think I kind of glazed over most of it when I read it the first time. The first time I read it I had just moved into a dorm room in a town where I knew no one, and I didn’t have a roommate, because the girl who was supposed to be my roommate just never showed up, and I was sick with anxiety, and there was a GIGANTIC HURRICANE that week, so the power was out. I sat in my new, empty dorm room, reading this book by the dim light coming from the windows. While a hurricane was going on. And I was miles away from anyone who really cared about me. I think I wasn’t really reading as much as turning the pages and pretending I was doing something other than feeling sad. So, I re-read this as my first book in the 2014 Classics Challenge. I read a lot of it while waiting to go in for a job interview at a library (I’m perpetually early to job interviews).

They asked me in the interview what I was reading at the moment, and I think I mentioned this book, but then my mind went blank and I thought, “Do I ever read books? How can I not remember any?” Though at that point I knew they didn’t want me, so I just crashed and burned through the rest of the interview with my dignity in tact. It takes a special kind of dignity to leave an interview for a job you know you won’t get with your head held high, but it’s a skill you learn to develop when job hunting. About two weeks later I got the job I have now, which is a much better job although slightly less having to do with anything I’m really interested in (So it goes…).

I finished this book on the train going to my first day of work. It was great. This book is great. Review done!

Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns)
4/5 stars

This was an enjoyable read, but I’m not super into comedy books, anyway. I liked Bossypants a whole lot. This wasn’t as good as Bossypants, but it didn’t need to be. Mindy Kaling is her own comedian, and that’s cool. I don’t really relate to her as much as I’d like to, though.

Libba Bray, A Great and Terrible Beauty
2/5 stars

I always hesitate before reading the first book in a series, and I have a lot of good reason to. It pains me to not finish things, so I hate finishing the first book only to be completely uninterested in finishing the series. There are a couple other YA first-book-of-a-series reviews in this post, and I’m bitter about all them, save Insurgent. I wish the whole trend of YA publishers pushing series would end. Just give me a really solid one-book effort, okay? Not that this book didn’t have effort. It did. I don’t think Libba Bray is a bad writer, but I was bored by the subject matter, I guess. I can’t even summarize it, really, I was so bored–this Victorian school girl can go into other worlds? Something about dead people? Magic? I don’t even know. So I won’t be finishing the series, and it bugs me! But life is short, y’all.

Patti Smith, Just Kids
3/5 stars

I feel weird about this. Every one I know loved this book, and I thought it was mediocre. Patti Smith was never one of my idols, I guess, so I couldn’t forgive her her flowery prose. She’s cool, but it doesn’t feel organic to me. Just a really force-fed kind of cool. “I lived on the streets, it was poetic and beautiful.” Really? Okay, girl, if that’s what you want us to think.

Kathryn Stockett, The Help
4/5 stars

I loved this book. Don’t make fun of me. It was a fun read, which is all I asked of it, and I even got emotional at the end. At “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” I know, I can’t even excuse my own tears.

Veronica Roth, Divergent
4/5 stars

Loved it! I liked it better than I remember liking The Hunger Games. I don’t much like the main character, but Tobias is a babe.

Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
4/5 stars

I’m an introvert, so I loved this book. Extroverts probably won’t like this book, but you people probably don’t even read, you probably just sit around, dancing at discotheques and crashing the stock market.

Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
4/5 stars

A lot of people loved then hated this book. I loved this book, and then I loved it more, and then I felt a numb sense of nothingness fill me up as the book came to its conclusion. It almost got five stars, though. Almost.

Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin
5/5 stars

This book was such a surprise. Such a wonderful, beautifully written surprise. I thought it would be a more salacious read, maybe like the school shooting version of The Help, but it was actually a pretty fantastic piece of literary fiction. I couldn’t stop reading it.

Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go
3/5 stars

Remember when I talked about disappointing first-book-in-a-series YA books? Yeah, this is one of them. I found the writing style grating and the story almost interesting, but not quite. I won’t be finishing the series.

Alissa Nutting, Tampa
3/5 stars

This one is hard, because I was looking forward to this book for a while. I love books about taboo subjects. But, honestly? This book grossed me out, and I didn’t think it was long enough to make up for that with actual characterization–I feel like there was more that needed to be explored. Alissa Nutting has guts, though, and oh boy–do I love women writers with guts. I will keep my eye on her.

Aryn Kyle, The God of Animals
5/5 stars

I just read the title of this in my list of books I’ve read and let out a happy little sigh in remembrance. This book was fantastic. Aryn Kyle is the kind of writer I want to be. She writes such believably flawed characters with such an idiosyncratic voice, and she writes them with such empathy. This is what sets her apart. I found this book so, so refreshing, and such a wonderful story about the last awkward months between childhood and teenagehood.

Herman Koch, The Dinner
2/5 stars

Looking back I think maybe the rating I gave this was harsh. Maybe three stars would have been more accurate. It was okay. It gets compared to Gone Girl a lot, which is nothing but a smart marketing tactic. It was nowhere near as riveting as Gone Girl.

Walter Tevis, The Man Who Fell to Earth
4/5 stars

This can’t be the first science fiction novel I’ve ever read, but it feels like it is. I don’t read much science fiction at all. This might have spoiled me, because I read 2001: A Space Odyssey soon after and was really disappointed, as you will see. The Man Who Fell to Earth, though–this little novel was so good. Interesting, not too bogged down in technical terms, and comfortably retro. I also love the movie, which stars David Bowie.

Tennessee Williams, Out Cry and Sweet Bird of Youth
both 3/5

I don’t know if I’ve talked about how Tennessee Williams is my idol on this blog yet. Perhaps I’ll save it for its own post. I think all writers should find a deceased writer to be their guardian angel, and Tennessee Williams is mine. I’m trying to find an artist to commission a drawing of him saying, “You can do it!” or “Hang in there, baby,” to hang above my writing desk. Anyway, I believe Out Cry is the original version of The Two-Character Play, which is one of my favorite of Williams’s “later” plays–I always saw it as a kind of post-modern sequel to The Glass Menagerie. I gave it three stars because it was basically like re-reading The Two-Character Play but I remember that version having more power for me.

Sweet Bird of Youth is good. I wouldn’t recommend it to somebody if they want to read their first Tennessee Williams (I will always recommend The Glass Menagerie, in case you wonder). Anyway, it’s a pretty basic Williams play– a story about sad-sack characters with a dark sexual element, uncouth desires, etc.

Ellen Litman, Mannequin Girl
5/5 stars

Ellen Litman taught at my university, and I took a class with her, so I don’t really know if I can give this a fair review. I read it because she was a professor of mine and I was excited to see it at the library, but I really did forget who wrote it when I was reading it. I loved this novel a lot.

Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
2/5 stars

This has been on my ‘to-read’ list for so long, and it looked so awesome, but I hated it. I think there’s a recurring pattern in this post with me hating YA books with a male main character.

Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey
2/5 stars

I wanted to continue on and read more science fiction, but I found this novel pretty boring. That’s what I worry about with science fiction, I feel like a lot of it does bore me to death. I’ll keep trying. Honestly, I think the difference between this and The Man Who Fell to Earth is that The Man Who Fell is Earth takes place on, well, Earth.

Stephen King,Salems Lot
3/5 stars

I love Stephen King. I liked this. It made great train reading. I feel like it’s one of the cheesier King novels I’ve read, which I guess is saying something, but it works. Damn these vampires.

Judy Blume, Deenie
4/5 stars

This book has two sentences worth of reference to teenage girl masturbation, and for that, I assume, it never had a chance to reach the popular mindscape quite like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret did. Which is a shame because this book probably made a lot of young girls feel less alone, considering the actual plot of the novel is about a young girl being diagnosed with scoliosis, and that’s something a lot of girls have to deal with. (Side note: Mannequin Girl is also about a girl with scoliosis, which is kind of a coincidence, because I happened to read them in the same month. So if any of you are looking for books about scoliosis? You came to the right book blog.)

I remember that when I was young and reading Margaret, some of the adults in my life made me feel weird and embarrassed about it–and I didn’t know why, because I had only started reading it, and I didn’t even know what it was about. I just picked it out from the library and people were like, ‘oh, you’re reading that book?’ Now, as an adult, I can’t imagine why they would have done that, or what exactly I was meant to be embarrassed about. We as a society don’t seem to want our young girls to feel the comfort that comes from realizing that our bodies are okay. Accepting our bodies is not helpful to a capitalist society that relies on selling women various goods based on an economy of shame, though. So, yeah, read Judy Blume.

Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), The Cuckoo’s Calling
4/5 stars

Where some writers might be cramped within the confines of a genre, J.K. Rowling still writes expansive, readable fiction with slight sprinklings of literary merit. I can’t say I’ve read very much crime fiction, and I did kind of figure out ‘who done it’ about halfway through the novel, but I think most of the fun was watching the detective come to the conclusion. I loved the characters, and I’m already on hold for the second in the series at the library.

Veronica Roth, Insurgent
4/5 stars

Look at me, continuing with a YA series! I expected to stop liking this series with the second book, but I’m still hooked. I’m on hold, as well, for Allegiant, the final installment. I’ll wait my turn, y’all. I will say that I didn’t like Tobias nearly as much in this novel.

Noel Coward, Three Plays: Blithe Spirit/ Hay Fever / Private Lives
5/5 stars

These plays were great. I’ve never been the biggest fan of comedic theater, but I actually did find these plays funny, and quite charming. Quite, indeed! My favorite was Blithe Spirit.

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality 1: An Introduction
2/5 stars

I read this because when I was completing my women’s studies minor in college The History of Sexuality was referenced a lot in our readings; while I was reading it, I was only reminded of Philosophy 101. I love looking at sexuality in an academic way–and I think that Foucault was arguing that I’m just playing into power structures when I do that, or something…I couldn’t really tell, honestly. I’d like to re-read this, or maybe read someone else’s interpretation of it, but it doesn’t change the frustration I feel. I really, really wanted to engage with this text, just like I really wanted to engage with the Philosophy 101 class I took. I think that philosophers make it purposely hard for anyone to engage with their arguments by making them inherently hard to understand. If you can’t understand the argument someone is making because their sentences are as dense as rocks, you can’t argue with them, but that doesn’t make them right.

Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire
4/5 stars

I finished this last night. Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Don’t even talk to me right now. I’m all fired up. This is how you do a series. It doesn’t matter if the last book is any good, I have no choice but to read it and finish it. I’m really glad I read Catching Fire, because when I read The Hunger Games, I actually didn’t have any desire to continue the series. It was peer pressure that made me. Thank God. I really want to see the Capital destroyed in like ten different ways. Vive la resistance.


Okay, all done! This post took me about five years to write, so I’m just going to see myself out. Don’t forget to follow me on Goodreads,

Currently Reading: Waiting in the Wings by Noel Coward
Goodreads Challenge: 34/70