Fluff, You’re Looking Mighty Fine These Days

I have extolled the virtues of fluff on numerous occasions. Now, more than ever, fluff is my literary drug of choice. I hate to admit this, but I just don’t have the time or the brain power to handle true literature (pronounced like this, of course).

In the past couple months, I have checked out the following books from the library . . . and returned them all unfinished:

imgres-1 Swing Time by Zadie Smith (I really gave this one its due, too. I read about 250 pages before giving up. I wanted to like it, but it just dragged on and on and didn’t get anywhere. The characters were unconvincing, shallowly drawn, a bit stereotypical, and not very likable. Sad.)

imgresMoonglow by Michael Chabon (On the other hand, I did not give this one a fair shake. I read maybe 50 pages before I had to return it to the library. It started out fine, but it obviously didn’t grip me. I mean, 50 pages in three weeks? Sad, sad.)

imgres-4Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (OK, this one I really don’t understand. It’s a National Book Award winner, and people whose opinions on books I respect have raved about it. But I wasn’t a fan. It started pretty strong with some striking—albeit gruesome—imagery . . . but then it faltered. Once they hit Baltimore, things came to a screeching halt. I was too bored to read any more. Oh, and the underground railroad as a real-deal train? I just found that a bit too trite. Sad, sad, sad.)

I used to be one of those people who COULD NOT abandon a book midway. I was compelled to finish even the worst novels. But now? Nope, nope, nope. I ain’t got time for that. Unless you’re the best book I’ve read in ages (see, e.g., Homegoing) or super easy/super fun/super fluffy stuff, chances are, I’m not going to read you right now. I only have so much free time, and I’m trying to make my way through Gilmore Girls, thank you very much.

Despite this new view on reading (and my radio silence on the blog), I have been reading. And here’s proof: Continue reading

Single White Female Fiction

I couldn’t have planned this better if I’d tried. Not only are the last two books I read historical fiction, but they are both of the Single White Female variety. Yes, I am referring to that creepy (and terrible) movie from the early-nineties in which a woman becomes obsessed with her female roommate:

These two books feature female friendships that go beyond the typical BFF-relationship and stray into the dangerous, you-really-need-to-see-a-therapist realm. Continue reading

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

imgres.jpgEveryone Brave Is Forgiven
Chris Cleave
Published May 3, 2016
432 pages

Why I read it: I am a huge fan of Chris Cleave’s Little Bee (a powerful, beautifully-written novel that you MUST read if you have not already). His other books (Incendiary, Gold) aren’t as good, but this, his latest, showed a lot of promise. It was an Amazon Best Book of the Month, an Indie Next List pick, and a LibraryReads List selection for May 2016, and it earned rave reviews. Hoping that it would live up to the hype, I also recommended it as the July selection for my book club.   

What it’s about: Set primarily in Britain during World War II, the book follows a cast of flawed characters driven to assist in the war in a variety of ways. There’s the rich and clueless Mary, who signs up for war with visions of espionage and covert ops (but ends up teaching at an elementary school and, later, driving an ambulance). There’s the bumbling but sweet Tom, who runs the schools for the undesirable children still left in London. There’s the witty Alastair, who enlists. And there’s Hilda (an always-the-bridesmaid type), who becomes a nurse. Their intertwined stories show the many faces of war (the creation of enduring friendships, unspeakable tragedies, unlikely bravery).

Rating: 3.5/5 Continue reading

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided

imgresIn the Country We Love: My Family Divided
Diane Guerrero with Michelle Burford
Published May 3, 2016
272 pages

Why I read it: I have no shame in admitting that I have a very real love for trashy television. One of my current favorites (the first season of which I binge-watched when my baby was a newborn and doing nothing but nursing and sleeping all day long) is Jane the Virgin, a super campy telenovela about a virgin who was mistakenly artificially inseminated:

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Still Searching for Some Good Light Reading . . .

After the string of get-me-down books that I wrote about in my last post, I was determined to treat myself to some lighter, fluffier, more enjoyable fare. I managed to read two books that were definitely lighter and fluffier (hooray!) but weren’t very good (boo!). I also read a kids’ book about Japanese internment, which (although pretty good) was decidedly not light, not fluffy, and not enjoyable. So, my quest for good fluff continues. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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What’s the Opposite of a Pick-Me-Up?

I was trying to think of the opposite of a “pick-me-up.” The best I could do is “get-me-down.” Why on Earth would I need to know such a phrase, you ask? Because it’s all I’ve been reading. UGH.

I would estimate that I’m now reading approximately one-fourth of what I read pre-baby. Ideally, therefore, my reading would be confined to sweet-fluffy books or funny-fluffy books or super-interesting books or even helpful books of the parenting variety. Instead, I have managed to read three get-me-down books right in a row. For a sleep-deprived parent with limited reading time, this is not a reading strategy that I would recommend.

Don’t get me wrong: as a rule, I am not against get-me-down books. In fact, my very favorite book of all time is a definite downer (Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates). But that writing makes me swoon, so it makes the ridiculously depressing story somehow worth reading.

The three books I am reviewing this week were all billed as worthwhile get-me-down books. But it is safe to say that they are NOT Revolutionary Road-level get-me-down books.  Continue reading

Thirty Million Words

I’m pretty sure that, when I’m walking through the grocery store with my five-month-old strapped to my chest, people think I’m a little crazy. Why? Because I carry on a nearly constant conversation with a little person whose only response might be a loud and emphatic: “Waaa boo BOOO!”

We talk about the smells (pungent fish, sweet oranges) and the colors (yellow bananas, green poblanos) and the textures (prickly pineapple, tickly cilantro). We identify the animals from which the meats are derived (chicken breasts: cluck cluck cluck).

I was a foreign languages major in college, and I vividly remember learning a new language (I talked a little about my experience learning French in this blog post). I know that the one thing that helped me the most was that my fabulous host family spoke with me (well, at me, at first) constantly in French. Well before I felt comfortable speaking conversationally in French, I began to understand what they were saying to me. Individual words became more distinguishable. Vocabulary became more familiar. Sentence structure started making sense. It was clicking.

So, from day one, I’ve been talking to my daughter with this in mind. I have always assumed that language would start clicking well before she could verbally communicate. And several months ago, she already started showing me that this is true (for example, when she began giving high fives on command or when she started looking around the room when her daddy would say, “Where’s Mommy?”).   

This book reinforces all my crazy grocery store conversations. 
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