Well, hasn’t time flown by! I’ve not stopped reading, but some of the books I’ve read recently have made me want to give it up completely. Here’s a rundown on the latest.
Let’s start with Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. A frumpy, lower class college freshman is invited to her wealthy roommate’s family cottage/compound for the summer where they skinny dip and wear pure white outfits and hang masterpieces on their walls. The more engrained she gets into this fabulous family, the closer she gets to understanding some shady secrets that nobody wants revealed. This has popped up on a whole bunch of “summer beach read” lists, and to be quite honest, I don’t think it’s even worth that. The characters are dumb and dull and the story takes some significant leaps. Not a fan. That said, I liked this a million times more than I did the next book I read…
…The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger. This almost cost me my 52 book challenge for the year. It took everything I had to finish this piece of crap. A young, plucky lawyer (think Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde) is stuck on a high profile divorce case because the wronged wife likes her spunk. Of course, she isn’t cut out for the job at all, but then…of course she is! It’s entirely told through emails, memos, and legal documents, which is great if you want to be a lawyer or plan on getting a divorce. To me it felt largely inspired by the Bridget Jones series, but way, way worse. I really hated this book.
After that garbage I needed to read something completely un-chick littish, so I read The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wacker. It was a good move. This book takes place circa 1899 in New York City, and follows the incredible story of a Golem – a woman made from clay by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in Kabbalist magic – and a Jinni – a genie who is liberated from the ancient oil bottle being repaired by a tinsmith. The two, who are seen as regular people by everyone else, recognize each other for the beings that they are, and try to navigate their way through the human world. A rich, smartly conceived novel that is fantastical, but deeply rooted with great characters and a really great story. I liked this one. Thank goodness.
Next up was Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch. Last year I read The Dinner, and this was similar in that it was filled to the brim with really complicated characters, most of whom weren’t very likeable. But being unlikable just made them complicated and, honestly, real. The story is about a doctor who is a bit of a misanthrope. He treats his patients, but secretly despises them and their ailing bodies. When a famous actor/patient invites the doctor and his family to his summer house, the doctor grudgingly agrees and sets the whole family on a dangerous path. It’s psychologically complex, occasionally disturbing and really, really well written. It’s good, but I needed to cleanse my palette after this one, so I went for something light next.
Goodnight June by Sarah Jio was definitely a light read. To me, this book was written with the movie version of it in mind (not that I think it will become a movie). The pacing, characters and leaps in plot f elt more like what one might find in a romantic comedy versus a novel. A 30-something hard-edged New York banker, who specializes in foreclosing on small businesses, finds that she’s inherited her great aunt’s children’s bookstore in Seattle. Upon returning to Seattle to sell the store, she realizes that she actually wants to keep it open, especially when she discovers a stack of her great aunt’s letters to and from the author of Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown. Through the letters she draws parallels to her own life, blah blah blah. The concept is marginally cute. The execution is a little bit embarrassing. I almost couldn’t take it when Bill Gates appears in a chapter in a cameo. So lame.
Finally, I finished The Vacationers by Emma Straub. THIS is a beach read. A husband and wife on the verge of divorce, their daughter who’s on her way to college, their 30 year old son and his fitness obsessed cougar girlfriend, and the wife’s gay best friend and his husband spend two weeks together in a fabulous house on the island of Mallorca. There are lots of conflicts, conversations, great food, soul searching and realizations of what it means to be family over the two weeks. Quick, easy, not mind-numbing.
This brings me to 33 books finished out of 52. Not too shabby!
Next up: After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman.