Reading List by Jennie for September through November 2012
Yikes! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these…
A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Ann Long
Kati and Dabney’s review is here. I gave this one a B; I liked the heroine, but the romance was a little on the bland side for me. Not my favorite JAL, but I’m still interested in reading the next book in the series; she’s pretty much an auto-buy for me.
Don’t Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff
I think I first heard of Rakoff when I read that he’d died this past summer at the age of 47; I was surprised, upon reading about him, that I wasn’t already familiar with him since he wrote a bit in the style of David Sedaris, whom I love. Don’t Get Too Comfortable is a series of essays on a wide range of topics that highlight the absurdities of modern American life. Rakoff tries new things (working as a cabana boy at a posh Miami hotel) or goes along as an observer for events that are strange and foreign to him (one of the last Concorde flights; fashion week in Paris) for the purpose of writing about them. The results can be hilarious but stinging; Rakoff was not a joiner or an enthusiast of…much of anything, really: “I am no fun at all. In fact, I am anti-fun. Not as in anti-violence, but as in anti-matter. I am not so much against fun – although I suppose I kind of am – as I am the opposite of fun. I suck the fun out of a room. Or perhaps I’m just a different kind of fun; the kind that leaves on bereft of hope; the kind of fun that ends in tears.” I enjoyed this a lot and plan to read his other books. I feel a little sad that I only found out about him after he died. Also that someone so fundamentally neurotic and such a hypochondriac would die so young.
World’s Fair by E.L. Doctorow
I’m not a regular reader of Doctorow; I read Ragtime years ago (as an 11-year-old, actually) and loved it, and read Homer and Langley a few years ago and liked it quite well (somewhere in the long interim I tried Billy Bathgate, but could never get through the macabre opening scene, where gangsters literally fit a rival with cement shoes and push him off of a boat). World’s Fair is a clearly autobiographical and fairly episodic novel of growing up in New York City in the 1930s. The writing is wonderfully evocative of time and place, but the perspective is mainly that of a young boy, and I had trouble connecting with him. His bewilderment at the adult concerns he observes made him hard to relate to. I found the occasional chapters from his mother’s perspective more interesting (there’s also one chapter from his older brother’s POV, which was also interesting but I wasn’t sure of the point of having these additional POVs when they weren’t really consistently woven into the story). I did like World’s Fair, but it didn’t engage me the entire way through. My grade is a B-.
Seduced by a Pirate by Eloisa James
This novella is connected to The Ugly Duchess which I gave a B+. It involves the pirate-cousin of the pirate hero of TUD, and his estranged wife. The plotline is very similar, superficially, to that book. Unfortunately, this one was not that well developed (even forgiving the constraints of the novella format). Also, it contained an egregious even-for-historical-romance sexual double standard, with the hero catting around while having left his wife alone for years, but dismayed by the possibility that she has not kept herself pure for him. My grade for it was a C.
January’s review is here. I liked it better than she did. I read this in one day, which is extremely unusual for me. Once I picked it up I didn’t want to put it down. I can agree with some of the criticisms in the review but I still have to give an A to a book so compulsively readable. I think part of it, besides liking the h/h and in spite of the lack of character conflict, was that in some ways a castaway novel mirrors a dystopian novel and I often really love those. There’s just something strangely compelling about reading about people fighting to survive without all of the trappings of modern-day society that we take for granted.
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
I was eager to read this memoir-cum-meditation-on-feminism as I’d heard a lot of positive buzz about it. I don’t think Moran is quite my cup of tea, though. She can be funny but her hyperbole gets tiring, and I think I’m one of those rare American readers who isn’t excessively charmed by Britishisms (which this book is full of, as it should be, since Moran is British). I don’t agree with her hypotheses a lot of the time, and her crudity kind of grossed me out (but I can be surprisingly uptight about crudity for someone who swears a lot). My grade is a C.