August Reads

Coming to you a little late, it’s my monthly reads post!

Rainbow Book Stacks

I’m working my way through my color coded book stacks one stack at a time. My usual monthly pattern is: one book about reading/literature/editing/words, one non-fiction/history/sociology book, and as many books from the stacks as I can get through.

This month I received several new books (thanks, Bev!), so I read all of the yellow and orange ones because I couldn’t bear to put books I haven’t read yet into finished stacks (I know, I’m crazy). I also cheated and read a few new books because I was really excited about them, even though they aren’t in the red stack (which I’m finishing up now).

This month I broke my pattern a bit and opted out of my usual history/sociology book. I needed a break after finally finishing Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945.

And now you all think I’m neurotic. That’s only a little true, I promise.

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Here are the books I read in August:

Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In (2004) by John Ajvide Lindqvist

What you need to know: This is the most epic horror novel of all time. It completely surpasses the genre.

Because this is really a love story.

It’s about first love, bullying, gender identity, effects of living in a single-parent household, revenge, pedophilia, coming of age, and oh, yeah, vampires.

In this novel, evil is layered. It’s complicated. It is clumsy. The lines between right and wrong blur, and as a reader my sense of justice became skewed when submerged in the novel. That’s some impressive stuff, Mr. Lindqvist.

This book is great literature. If I organized my books by theme, this wouldn’t be hanging out on a shelf with Stephen King and Anne Rice. It would probably be somewhere near Kurt Vonnegut, Dave Eggers, and Bret Easton Ellis.

It was simply an amazing novel, which is so rare in genre fiction. The characters are very well developed, the main plot and sub plots are interweaved beautifully, and the story surprised me even though I’d seen the movie first. Bonus: it’s Swedish. Which makes everything just that much more interesting.

I already can’t wait to re-read it. I wish I was in a book club or something just so I could talk about it (I don’t like to give away details here- I hate it when people ruin books that I haven’t read yet).

I can’t thank my twitter bud @Rengetsu13 enough for telling me about it! I wasn’t even aware that it was a novel, she told me to check it out after I was gushing about falling in love with the Swedish version of the movie (Let The Right One In). I even liked the American version, Let Me In, which is worth watching if you can’t bear to read sub-titles.

*Warning: one of the themes of the novel is sexual violence involving children.

And now for a quote: “‘Oskar. Oskar…’

He opened his eyes. The light inside the globe was turned off and the moonlight made everything blue. Gene Simmons looked at him from the wall across from the bed, sticking out his long tongue. He curled up, shut his eyes. Then he heard the whisper again. ‘Oskar…’ It was coming from the window. He opened his eyes, looked over. He saw the contour of a little head on the other side of the glass.

He pulled of the covers but before he managed to get out of bed Eli whispered, ‘Wait there. Stay in bed. Can I come in?’

Oskar whispered: ‘Yes…’

‘Say that I can come in.’

‘You can come in.’”

Angel

Angel: After The Fall Volume 1 (2008) by Brian Lynch and Joss Whedon

What you need to know: Whedon fans will love it (otherwise, leave it).

Pretty much the only point to this is to figure out what finds out after the final season of Angel. I loved getting to see what happened to the characters after the end of the television series, but the comics move super slow. I’ll collect them all over time, but it’s hard for me to justify $15.00 on something that takes me less than an hour to read from cover to cover. Also, I don’t love the artwork (I’m not a fan of Franco Urru, who is the comic book artist for the Season 8 Buffy comic book series as well). Don’t let the pretty cover fool you.

And now for a quote: “I joined a corporation that was, quite literally, evil incarnate. I thought I could channel their resources into something positive. In an existence defined by bad choices, that was my worst.”

Dexter is Delicious

Dexter Is Delicious (2010) by Jeff Lindsay

What you need to know: Even though these books are about a serial killer, they’re a light, fluffy read. Like a Jennifer Weiner book for people who don’t like their fluff girly (me).

The books aren’t as good as the television series (gasp!). The first season is based on the first book in the series, and after that the TV and paper versions go in completely different directions. They have different tones. The television series falls into the drama category, while the books are pretty steadily comedy/action. It can get predictable and the characters are mostly one-deminsional, but I still think these books are a fun read.

*I read the first two books in the series in January and the third and fourth in February.

And now for a quote: “I could feel the moonlight coming through the window and pouring through my skin, slicing deep inside me, stirring the dark soup of my center and making these wonderful thoughts float up to the top, and as the smell of the simmering broth drifted up and out on the night air I could picture him taped to the table, squirming and curdling with the same sweat terror he had sauteed from who knows how many, and I could see the happy knife go up-”

The Novel

Aspects of the Novel (1927) E. M. Forster

What you need to know: This is a strangely written little book, compiled from a lecture series by E. M. Forester on the art of the novel. A good read for those who want a different way to look critically at literature.

While I didn’t agree with everything Forester had to say about what makes literature great, I really liked that he had a different way of breaking down the aspects of a novel. He’s really trying to pinpoint what makes a novel great. Instead of focusing on the normal things we learn in English class (plot, characters, voice, etc.), Forester looks at novels from a different angle (“prophecy” and “pattern and rhythm’). I like that I now have more things to keep in mind now as I’m editing my own novel (which will probably never be finished, in case you’re wondering).

And now for a quote: “What will interest us today… is an accent in the novelist’s voice, an accent for which the flutes and saxophones of fantasy may have prepared us. His theme is the universe, or something universal, but he is now necessarily going to “say” anything about the universe; he proposes to sing, and the strangeness of song arising in the halls of fiction is bound to give us a shock.”

Fish

Saving Fish from Drowning (2005) Amy Tan

What you need to know: This book is a fun journey across China and into Burma, but isn’t written very well.

I was expecting this to be pretty amazing, because I loved Tan’s novels The Kitchen God’s Wife and The Joy Luck Club. But I wasn’t too impressed.

I think I was just irritated the whole time that the narrator was dead and served little to no purpose. I am very sensitive to this right now because the narrator in my novel is dead, and I’ve spent a lot of time making sure that the death of the narrator is integral to the story instead of just a cool parlor trick to try out. The narrator’s part would have made a great short story, separated from this novel. (Also annoying: Tan would also slip in and out of the narrator’s voice often.) Stuff like that drives me nuts.

And now for a quote: “Almost everything I had planned came undone. My original itinerary began thusly: My friends, those lovers of art, most of them rich, intelligent, and spoiled, would spend a week in China and arrive in Burma on Christmas Day.”

eat pray love

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia (2006) by Elizabeth Gilbert

What you need to know: It’s pretty hard not to love this book, even though this is far from what I typically read.

I thought going into this that it would be a chick flick on paper (which it is, a little) and didn’t expect to like it. But I was pleasantly surprised. The novel/memoir is an honest at soul searching, but this isn’t a whiny collection of self-pitying introspection. It’s more a life experiment: how to get oneself out of the doldrums and into the balance of living life fully. Also, the writer is so likable that I couldn’t stop reading. It felt like having an all-night conversation with an old (very funny) friend. Which is seriously cool, in my opinion.

P. S. Don’t judge the book by the movie.

And now for a quote: “I wish Giovanni would kiss me. Oh, but there are so many reasons why this would be a terrible idea. To begin with, Giovanni is ten years younger than I am, and- like most Itaian guys in their twenties- he still lives with his mother. These facts alone make him an unlikely romantic partner for me, given that I am a professional American woman in my mid-thirties, who has just come through a failed marriage and a devastating, interminable divorce, followed immediately by a passionate love affair that ended in sickening heartbreak.

the-secret-life-of-bees

The Secret Life of Bees (2002) by Sue Monk Kidd

What you need to know: I haven’t decided what I think of this yet.

There are quite a few serious themes in this novel: overcoming racism, the feminine divine, female power, the primal need for a mother figure, and honey bees. The main character, coming of age and on the lamb, struggles with these themes in a very interesting setting – in the house of three beekeeping black sisters during the 1960s in the South.

I feel that the novel deals with these themes in a heartfelt way, but I also don’t feel like it is an honest novel at its core. There’s something about it that just feels insincere to me, but I can’t place what it is, exactly. I’ll probably re-read it and dwell on this a little more.

*I’d just like to add for the record that I’d like to see a novel on the same themes from the black perspective make the best seller list. We tend to congratulate white people on overcoming racism novels, which tend to be packed full of stereotypical characters, while ignoring novels from the minority perspective. White privilege pisses me off.

And now for a quote: “This was a great revelation- not that I was white but that it seemed like June might not want me here because of my skin color. I hadn’t know this was possible to reject people for being white.”

the doorbell rang

The Doorbell Rang (1965) Rex Stout

What you need to know: Brilliant sleuth and Watson-like narrator take on the FBI for hordes of cash.

This is one of the Great Mystery Books, 10 Volumes that I’m working my way through. I thought this was one of the best ones in the bunch so far (as it was actually exciting), but the ending was pretty anti-climatic. And the detective, Nero Wolfe, doesn’t seem so brilliant after reading Sherlock Holmes.

And now for a quote: “Since it was the deciding factor, I might as well begin by describing it. It was a pink slip of paper three inches wide and seven inches long, and it told the First National City Bank to pay to the order of Nero Wolfe one hundred thousand and 00/100 dollars.”

August Reads

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

What are you reading lately?