April Reads

Time and Again, by Jack Finney. I read about this novel in Stephen King’s acknowledgments section for 11-22-63 (a novel that was one of my favorite reads last year). King said he had been influenced Finney’s concept of time travel.  For the first third or so, I was completely taken in. I read several passages out loud to Jason because I couldn’t stop myself. I found the book creative and thought-provoking. But then, abruptly at the halfway mark, I had my fill of the incredibly detailed descriptions of New York in the 1800s. I didn’t think I was going to finish, actually, but after a hiatus of four or five weeks, I picked it up again. And, what do you know, I read the second half in only about three more sittings. I was absolutely fascinated by the ending. I keep wanting to talk with someone who has read it or doesn’t mind never reading the book (not sure it would be worth it if the ending couldn’t be a surprise; the ending is not one that changes your perception of the whole book, but it is one that I’m glad was unspoiled). I wouldn’t press this into your hands and say you must read it, but I’m glad I did.

Moshi Moshi, by Banana Yoshimoto. Kitchen has been on my to-read list for a while, but I found this one on the shelf at the library one day and picked it up instead. I very much liked (almost loved) this book. The premise of the story is that Yoshie’s father has died in an apparent suicide pact with an unknown woman and Yoshie and her mom are figuring out how to continue on. I imagine if this were an American novel if it would be plot-driven, fast-paced, and focused on untangling the mystery. But it’s a Japanese novel, and it was none of those things. Reading it made me remember what it felt like to visit Japan.

I Hate Everyone Except You, by Clinton Kelly. Honestly, I think I should probably stop reading memoirs by celebrities (whose personas) I am fond of. Parts of this book were funny, and the snarky tone didn’t shock me, as I had read that Kelly was “a little bit cruder and quite a bit meaner” than what you would guess from watching What Not to Wear (I think I saw every episode; I got hooked when I was in the hospital on bedrest waiting for Simon to be born). But overall I just didn’t like the book that much, which was disappointing.

The Mothers, by Brit Bennett. I love the cover art on this one, but the description didn’t grab me, and I passed it by at the library a few times before I finally decided to pick it up. I loved so much about this book–likeable characters, well-written throughout and often truly beautiful writing, engaging story. I wish there had actually been more of the Mothers (the older women in the church community) who framed the story, as their voices were my favorites. I won’t complain (much) that the Mothers’ influence–or sometimes lack of–as a conceit was just a half a hair too subtle; I’d take too subtle over heavy-handed any day. Highly recommend.

The Vegetarian, by Han Kang. This is one of those books I can see is good, and I can see how others might love it. It was not for me. The story, on its surface, is of a Korean woman who has a dream and subsequently gives up all meat. It is told in three parts from different points of view (none of them the woman, Yeong-hye’s). The novel is complex and dark, and, like I said, there is much to recommend here, but it was not my favorite.

Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis. I put this on my list of books I wanted to re-read this year, and I picked it up one day when I was frankly too lazy to go upstairs and get another book. I remember liking this book when I read it for a class in college, but, as is typical of my reading life, I didn’t remember the details, just the general feeling that I liked reading it. Now that it’s fresh in my mind again, I affirm my assessment. This was a pleasure to read. A retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, it is a rich story with complex characters. On this reading, I kept thinking that I’d be interested to see how this could be adapted for film (but I’d be glad I’d read the book first).

Half-Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls. This was our book club selection this month, and I admit to dragging my feet in wanting to read it. I think my hesitation was because I read The Glass Castle (when we were visiting Japan, actually, so eight years ago) and found it hard and heavy. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this “real-life novel.” (Walls calls it a real-life novel because it is told as if it is a memoir written by her grandmother, and though the stories are true in the sense that they are faithful retellings of the stories she heard directly from her grandmother and mother, the details and dialogue are necessarily fictional.) The chapters are short and the stories engaging, an easy read.

Abandoned this month:

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown. This book was a victim of its own message. I liked it fine, but I just didn’t want to spend more time reading it. Honestly, I probably would have made it through had I used a bookmark. I spent too much time re-reading to find my place, which is on me.

A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power, by Paul Fischer. I heard about this book a while ago on NPR, and by the time I finally got around to checking it out from the library, I had lost interest.