it’s a christmas miracle, charlie brown
January 5th, 2010
Okay, perhaps I’m being a tad hyperbolic, but given that I had both girls home for the holidays, plus the mother-in-law, plus arctic temperatures, the fact that I managed to read one book, let alone a stack of them, is kind of a miracle. But I did. I got through a lot of those eight books I bought before the holidays, justifying them as Hanukkah gifts, and many of which are now being given away to those with the best resolutions (I’ll wind up the contest at the end of the week).
A quick rundown of books I’ve read, or my favorites at any rate.
I Heart You, You Haunt Me I’ve been meaning to read for a while now because I’ve been hearing and reading such wonderful things about it and I love Lisa and I pre-ordered her new book Chasing Brooklyn, which is out today (!!!!!!!!) and should be here already (it’s probably in a UPS box upstairs). But, here’s a secret. I kind of have a thing about novels in verse. Or verse in novels. Sometimes and in some novels, it makes me gag. Not always. But sometimes. Usually. But Heart/Haunt doesn’t seem to be in verse in the overwrought-poetry way. It is like beautiful, elegant simple vignettes, much like the way Patricia McCormick’s Sold is. Anyhow, I loved it. Devoured it in about an hour, which was the only bummer. Great cover, too.
Next up was Flash Burnout, appropriate, because Lisa herself has been singing this book’s praises, which was written by fellow Oregonian (my sistas) LK Madigan. Now, this book has
been getting lots of justified buzz, being nominated for the Morris Award (and, if like me, and apparently Lisa Madigan, per her hilarious blog post upon learning she’d been nominated, don’t know what the Morris is, it’s the ALA award for best debut YA novel). Read this book. You will fall in love with every character in it. Even the jerky jock older brother. Even the insecure, sort of bitchy girlfriend. Especially the parents–I heart them. And especially Blake. Also, while reading this book, I was like, how does Lisa know so much about medical examiners? And adrenaline junkie bike riders? And tweakers? And photography? And chaplains? But she seemed to know it all and I believed it. Anyhow, I loved this book. Did I say that enough already?
So, then it was on to some “adult books.” (God, that always sounds like porn.) Though Lorrie Moore’s A Gate At The Stairs is actually a coming-of-age-story about a twenty-year-old college student named Tassie who plays bass and has a bad boyfriend, among other things. But Tassie tells her story from the distance of age, and is thus sophisticated, and Lorie Moore spends whole
paragraphs describing the contents of Tassie’s fridge, which is how you know you’re not in YA-Kansas anymore. No, I love Lorrie Moore. If any of you budding writers want to know how to draw a perfect character, read her. And I really liked this book. A lot. But not as much as I expected to LOOOVE IT. (I had similar problems with Up In The Air, a fine movie that I expected to change my life. Too much pressure for a movie. Also, I will admit: I think I’ve been reading too much YA. It’s like driving 125 MPH and then suddenly reading an adult literary novel, it’s like slowing down to 80 and you feel like you’re crawling. But this book was wonderful; seriously, most subtly drawn characters and also dealt in large part with interracial adoption—okay, didn’t deal with it but it was a plot component. And that was another thing. There was something that was so totally wrong about the adoption stuff that only someone like me who’s been through a home study would know, that it kinda bugged me. But it’s also a good reminder of the difference between accuracy and authenticity. I’m forever fretting about getting stuff wrong—particularly in the current book—but sometimes for the sake of the plot, it doesn’t matter. Or maybe it’s just different in Wisconsin. Also, very random thing happening with the Love Interest were it to happen in a YA novel (god, I’m such a partisan now), it would’ve been blasted to smithereens. But storyline with Tassie’s brother is beautiful. And with the crazy family she nannies for. Anyhow, I’m in the minority on not thinking this book Perfect, but hey, I’m a rebel.
So, last up on my list of books read and loved (or liked an awful lot) is Arthur Phillips‘ The Song Is You. Arthur is one of those It Boys from a few years back. His book Prague was out when everyone was going crazy about Gary Shteyngart and I guess I overlooked this one buzzy boy. My bad. The Song Is You was incredible. A love story about two people who never meet, a heartbroken middle-aged geezer (i.e. someone about my age) and a flaming-haired rock star on the rise. It’s a story about music and meaning and heartbreak and redemption and I spent pretty much all of New Year’s Day on the couch reading it, Denbele occasionally coming over pulling at me and saying “Mama Wak Up, Wak Up.” Translation: Get Your Ass Off The Couch. And I was like. Sorry. I’ve hauled you and your sister to museums and skating rinks and science halls and aquariums. I’m hanging with Arthur this afternoon. This book was a 2009 release and I don’t know why I didn’t hear about it (maybe because I tend to only hear about books for people 18 and younger these days?) but I loved it. A perfect way to start my year. I gotta say, though, someone missed the mark on this cover. What is this, a Kate Winslet/ Jude Law romance? Everyone’s a critic.
Okay, finally, and not book-related, movies. I saw Invictus, which I covered in my last blog. And Up In the Air, already referred to, though I should say, with the help of my BFF, I am becoming obsessed with Anna Kendrick. People, she was the conniving girl from Camp. See below. And yesterday, I saw Avatar, which I thought I liked only so-so (story is a little hackneyed) but I have not been able to stop thinking about it, so clearly it did something to me. James Cameron definitely upped the game again.
Take us home, Anna: