Reading List by Jennie for April and May 2013
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
I’ve found reports of this book off-putting in the past; dire warnings about the heroine’s silliness have made me wary in the extreme. I have a limited tolerance for 19th century silly English characters; the reason Emma is my least favorite Austen is that everyone in the book is basically an idiot save for Mr. Knightley, and even he is slightly creepy given his initially paternal and eventually romantic relationship with Emma. Anyway, I always heard that Catherine Morland was insufferably silly. So far, she’s not bugging me too much, but I’m only about a third of the way into the book, so we’ll see, I guess. I am finding the Thorpes to be just awful, though, in the way that only Austen can seem to make characters awful and yet somehow convince me that the portrayals aren’t completely over-the-top.
Bruce by Peter A. Carlin
Bruce Springsteen was my first rock star crush (I may be dating myself here) – when Born in the U.S.A. came out, I was 14, and it affected me the way music really hadn’t before, at least not in such a complete way. Bruce was my first concert, as well. I’ve been following him and his music for almost 30 years now. This is a fairly workmanlike biography and it took me a while to get through it; aside from some stuff about Springsteen’s early childhood (he was the adored pet of his paternal grandparents, a substitute for the daughter they’d lost to a runaway truck 20 years before he was born), there wasn’t a whole lot of new, insightful, or even just plain gossipy information. Still, I enjoyed it, even when the subject doesn’t come off as entirely likable. (For all his man-of-the-people street cred, Springsteen often comes off in the bio, as so many artists do, as essentially pretty self-centered, driven, unhappy, a perfectionist and a loner.)
True by Erin McCarthy
I continue to be drawn to the NA genre, even if I haven’t had great success with it. This one was more successful for me than most; though it was ultimately pretty familiar in terms of plot and characterization, the writing mostly worked for me and the story did as well. If I’m going to read a contemporary with a naive virgin heroine and a bad boy hero (though Tyler really isn’t all that bad in actuality), it’s so much more palatable to me when the heroine is 20 rather than 25 or 30. For that matter, I can accept an immature man-slut hero better at 22 than 32, though Tyler isn’t really an immature man-slut, either. His tattoos and rough upbringing give him a rebel patina, but he’s nearly Dudley Do-Right in practice. I thought Rory’s logical, scientific mind was oversold at times, but I appreciated that this was a fairly realistic depiction of a heroine with real social anxiety and shyness issues – she doesn’t just blossom under the hero’s regard and undergo a total personality change. Like Jane, I liked that the story wasn’t wrapped up in an overly optimistic ending – the h/h get their HEA (well, their H-E-for-now, as is appropriate for their ages), but there are challenges facing Tyler that won’t be easily overcome. I definitely would like to read the second book in the series. My grade for this one is a B+.
Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
I didn’t even realize until about a month before this was published that it was the last book in the series; shows you how in touch I am. I spoiled myself for the controversial resolution to Sookie’s complicated love life, and while I was initially a bit disappointed (or maybe just kind of “meh”) about it, in actuality the pairing worked pretty well for me, and I think it helped that I was expecting it. (See, spoilers aren’t *always* bad!) I’ll miss Sookie – I’ve written before about what the series means to me, I think – but I can’t argue with those who say that the books ran out of gas a while ago. I have always enjoyed my yearly visit with the residents of Bon Temps, though. But all good things must end, and this was a good end to the series. My grade is an A-. Robin’s review is here.
A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey
I had long heard of Tey but never tried her (and probably wouldn’t have, honestly) until a friend lent me this slim little mystery, published in 1936. I’m not a big mystery reader, but a historical setting makes a mystery much more appealing to me, for some reason. I think it’s because I just like historical novels in general, but I’m wary of unknown literary fiction; genre fiction, be it romance or mystery or whatever, seems like more of a known quantity. Anyway, I ended up liking this quite a bit. The mystery involves a famous actress who washes up on an English beach, drowned. At first it’s thought to be an accident (she’s wearing her swimsuit and was known to swim at that beach), until a small button is found snagged in her hair, as if someone perhaps held her under water and the button came off in the struggle. The suspects are plentiful and the red herrings numerous; the actual resolution of the mystery didn’t matter too much to me, and the victim never really came alive to the point where I lamented her loss. But I really liked the detective, Inspector Alan Grant (he’s apparently featured in several Tey mysteries), as well as some of the other colorful characters, and the time and setting were superbly rendered. I’d give this one a B+, and plan to try more of Tey’s work.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
I bought this on impulse when it was on sale for the Kindle a while back. I’d meant to read it when it came out, but never got around to picking it up. I love Tina Fey, both on Saturday Night Live and the recently departed (sniff) 30 Rock. So far I’ve found the book a bit hard to get into, though; Fey details her upbringing with a focus on her teenage adventures as a theater nerd. It’s funny; but it’s not that funny. I’m perservering in the hope that it gets more entertaining later on.