Sunday, October 6, 2019

What I Read in August and September

I was only able to read three books in August so I decided to combine my book review for August and September.  I typically read about 50 books per year but at the rate I'm going at right now, "about" is where I'm going to end up for 2019.  And that's perfectly fine.  Book reading isn't a contest.

Florida is a collection of short stories, all of which have the state of Florida as the common theme.  Sometimes the story takes place in Florida, sometimes a character is from Florida.  Lauren Groff is definitely a talented writer and while I usually do not seek out short stories, I enjoyed reading these.  Some definitely were stronger than others, but overall a satisfying read.

Heartland is a memoir of working class poverty in America.  The author's mother came from a line of teen mothers, while her father was a fifth generation wheat farmer.  The book focuses mainly on the author's childhood in Kansas along with the history of her parents, grandparents and great grandparents.

I really wanted to love this.  I feel there was so much potential here for a fantastic book, but unfortunately, the author missed it.  There was a lot of repetition with several story lines being told more than once, but other important parts of Smarsh's life were skimmed over and described in short paragraphs.  For me, there was too much focus on certain parts of her life and family history, and not enough detail from later in her life (teen years to present.)  This was definitely an interesting book to read but I can see why it didn't receive the same hype as Hillbilly Elegy.    

Rich and I discuss, here and there, bringing the girls out west and visiting a National Park.  I came across this book right after we'd had one of these discussions and thought it would be interesting to read.  It was, but it was very morbid.  As the title suggests, this book is about how people have died in Yellowstone National Park.  I do have to say I learned quite a bit about Yellowstone - the stories with bears freaked me out the most - but unless you have a huge fascination with Yellowstone, this isn't necessarily a book I would recommend.  Also, some parts dragged on for me.  I would have maybe enjoyed a shorter book that highlighted the dangers along with some history, versus detailed accounts of so many deaths.

Disappearing Earth was the best book I read over these past two months.  Two young sisters disappear from a peninsula located in the far northeastern part of Russia.  As time and the book continues, the reader is introduced to different characters, who are all tied together at the end.  What's amazing here is that the author focuses on the heartache and abuse of women - the divorced, single mom who has to leave her children alone during the day so she can work, the young woman who can never leave her super controlling boyfriend, the mom who is left to care for her children alone while her husband is out at sea for months at a time, the mom who wants to return to work after having a baby but cannot.

I have this odd fascination with Russia and given the choice, I'd read a book set in Russia over other countries.  The author spent time in that part of Russia so her descriptions of the area are detailed and make the book even better, in my opinion.  I like the ending too.  So if you're looking for new fiction, check this one out.

I admit I read this book because everyone's been talking about it and I was curious.  It seemed like it could be interesting but before I read it, I knew that most people either loved it or hated it.  Normal People follows the relationship between Connell and Marianne from high school through college.

I was not a fan.  At all.

There are a million people out there in relationships I do not and will not ever understand, but in this case, the author has the opportunity to explain that relationship but whatever she was trying to get across just didn't work for me.  I understand relationships can be extremely complex but there was a lot missing here.  I could not relate to most of the characters, especially the main two, and I really just didn't like any of the characters.  Here and there, the author describes Connell and Marianne, but it always seemed like she was contradicting herself, or not explaining how/why a character had changed.  Long story short - I thought character development here was terrible.  In addition, and somewhat of a pet peeve, the book just ended.  As in, I turned the page expecting a new chapter and found that the book had ended.  As a reader, it made me feel like the author didn't know how to end it.

Fourth of July Creek is set in 1980 in a remote area of Montana.  Pete Snow, a social worker, attempts to assist families in need and abused children.  There is one family in particular who is hiding in the wilderness and as Snow tries to get close to them, he has to deal with the disintegration of his own family.  I thought this book was pretty good.  It's different from other books out there and kept my interest.

Away Off Shore tells the early history of Nantucket through its people.  While I thought this was good, especially for nonfiction history, it's not necessarily a book I would recommend for everyone.  If you are really into American history or you're from New England or you have a connection to Nantucket, you'd probably find this interesting.  It could be because my timing reading this wasn't the best - I had to pick up and put down quite a bit - but some chapters dragged on for me.  So reader beware, a good book, but definitely not for everyone.

For links to all my book reviews and lists, click here.

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1 comment:

Heather O. said...

THANK YOU! I don't get the hype for Normal People and did not enjoy it, at all. I agree with your sentiments.