Books Read in July

I had to wait until I finished one. Because it took me most of July and one afternoon of August to finish it. You’re welcome to guess which, but I’ll tell you… in just a minute. Ready? Go.

* THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary E. Pearson. This was a “what’s going on here” kind of book — something is not quite right with Jenna. The things she can’t remember are disturbing, but the ones she can (like her baptism at 2 weeks old) may be even more so. This reminded me of Unwind by Shusterman, a bit — similar feeling of someone else being very much in control of your future and your prospects… It was cool and creepy and kind of lovely.

* THE COLOR OF MAGIC by Terry Pratchett. DeNae had two copies, so she gave me one. I know. What a friend. I’d read Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books and adored them. This was my first dive into Discworld for grownups. Dude can write. Language is brilliant and funny, enviably so. Rincewind and Twoflower. Perfect travel companions. Want to try it? Let me know how it works for you. (But I strongly recommend picking up Wee Free Men. Read it out loud to a clever child and soak up the hilarity.)

* A TALE DARK AND GRIMM by Adam Gidwitz. WOW. Loved this so much that I read it to the kids IN THE CAR. This is a sacrifice beyond normal ranges. I hate reading in the car. Barf. But we had a little road trip, and the book was so good, I had to share it with them. It retells a whole bunch of Brothers Grimm tales, with the boy-and-girl characters as Hansel and Gretel. Gidwitz doesn’t spare the bloody, scary, gruesome parts (he calls them “the awesome parts”) and so we got a real taste for the original Grimm. Serious creepiness. And a brilliant voice.

* MISS PEREGRINE’S SCHOOL FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs. It’s all about the photos, really. The story is fine, but maybe breaks down for me near the end. But the photos. So cool. They’re (claimed to be) un-re-touched (is that a word?) vintage photos of bizarre kids (like the guy with his face covered with bees, and the floating girl, and the kid in the bottle, and the one with the ball of light glowing in her hands) — and the story revolves around the pages and pages of photos. So even if you’re not into the paranormal type story, take a copy off the shelf and look at the photos.

* JELLICOE ROAD by Malina Marchetta. (Re-read) I love this book. It is amazing. I haven’t pushed it into the hands of my kids, because there is some mature stuff in there that I can wait for them to deal with. But oh. Oh, I love this book. The writing is GORGEOUS. Setting, pacing, dialog, dreams, emotion, yearning, anger, concern… It’s not an easy book to read. It requires you to grow through it. And should I say it again? I love it.

* SMALL GODS by Terry Pratchett. So here’s the deal. Gods need someone to believe in them. That’s where they get their power. But what to do when you’re the Big Old God of an entire country, but there’s nobody who really believes? Well, nobody but Brother Brutha, a sweet, dopey gardener. Pratchett makes me laugh out loud. And think about things. And wish I lived in England. Or Discworld. (But not really. You know what they say. It’s a nice place to visit…)

* BIRD IN A BOX by Andrea Davis Pinkney (she’s Jerry’s wife). You know the Russell Crowe movie Cinderella Man? I love that movie. It’s the only thing I’ve ever really liked Renee Zellwegger in. Anyway… at the end, there are the epilogue-type art cards, that tell you that James J Braddock held the heavyweight boxing title until he was defeated by Joe Louis. So this book is about Joe and his rise to the title. (We’re talking about Bird in a Box. Pay attention.) It’s told in the voices of young black kids whose dreams and hopes all fall on Joe. The writing is pretty — but gritty enough to give it some punch. (Gritty in a totally middle-grade manner. Issues abound, though — death, drunken violence, abandonment… big punches, even outside the ring.) Joe Louis was (according to this book) the hope of the American black man, woman and child in the 30s. Yay, historical fiction!

* DRAW THE DARK by Ilsa J. Bick. Creepy, this one. And dark (surprise!). Don’t let Christian draw your picture. You’ll die. Scary! Also, language. But there were some great scenes, and some great characters. But I’m warning you — language, violence, and Nazis (in Wisconsin).

* NORTH AND SOUTH by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’ve heard a bit about this one here and there – a mid-19th century English novel about a young woman who lives three different lives: In the Harley Street ease of luxurious London, the country softness of her father’s parsonage in the south, and the striking (that was a pun; you’ll get it if you’ve read it) difference of a Manchester-type manufacturing city in the north. I wanted to adore it. But honestly? It was a lot of work. POV switched too fast, paragraph to paragraph. Everyone was perfectly beautiful, perfectly intelligent, perfectly controlled (most of the time). I felt Miss Jane Austen’s influence (but not quite enough, or in the right places). Took 2.5 weeks to finish (which, well, is a really long time) — but I stuck it out and I’m adding it to my list of “finished Classics” so I can say I did it.

Melanie Jacobson - This sounds like a very dark month for you. WHAT IS GOING ON, Becca? Do you need an INTERVENTION?August 2, 2011 – 2:58 pm

Kim - Becca – Well, it looks like I am a slacker, for more reasons than one. Firstly, I meet you at the LDStorymakers Conference (we sat next to eachother at lunch) and I’ve taken way to long to say “hi” out here in cyberspace. Secondly, WOW! You are a reader. Thanks for the recommendations! I just finished a book you might have heard of – um, because it’s yours. I loved “My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions.” Sarah’s voice was so fresh and original.August 2, 2011 – 3:09 pm

Brittany Larsen - That’s a lotta books! I tried to read North and South in high school and have hated Elizabeth Gaskell ever since. But then one of her books was made into a Masterpiece Theatre program that I watched and liked! So now I think maybe I should give her another try… Or not.August 3, 2011 – 1:57 pm

Carolyn V - That is a ton of books?! I’m not sure if I should be astonished or jealous. I want to read some of those books on your list!

Hope you are having a great summer Becca!August 4, 2011 – 12:34 pm

Dad - I can’t justify a what-I’ve read-recently spot on my own blog, so please accept my chime-in on yours. I finished El Antiguo Testamento last week, a labor of well over a year. You and the siblings gave me the book in 2009 and I have beavered away at it and hung in there all the way through Malaquias. Way worth it, although I don’t see a repeat in my future. Dave ran a marathon last week and said he checked that off his life’s bucket list. Me too for el antiguo testamento.August 4, 2011 – 3:27 pm