What I Read: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

4/5 pineapples

Oh, blogger’s block.

I was pumped at the beginning of this year about my blogging. I would do it more and consistently. I would have exciting new posts that would attract the attention of all my readers. I would find a style that worked for me. I would create a space that was a hobby, not a chore.

But the best laid plans…

I tried to post, I really did. But every time I started something, I didn’t like it. It never had the tone or content I wanted or that I felt was worth publishing. So I was silent.

Until now.

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What I Read: A Lesson Before Dying

 3/5 Pineapples

(Back to pineapples we go :))

What I Read: A Lesson Before Dying

ISBN: 9780375702709; 256 pages; Pub. 1993

I wanted nothing more than to love this book.

Ernest Gaines wowed me with “A Long Day in November.” I walked away from that story thinking, “dang, I wish I could write like that.” I walked away from A Lesson Before Dying thinking “wait…what happened?”

After I’ve thought about it for a few days I can’t help but think… nothing.

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What I Read: The Bean Trees

5 Star Daisies

5/5 Daisies

(I’m mixing things up ;))

Bean Trees Cover

ISBN: 9780060915544; 246 pages; Pub. 1988

Oh goodness, a fiver! Who would have thought such a thing would come from the likes of me :)

So first of all, hello, I’m back! After a quick vacation away from my blog I am ready to return to my regular posting and overall dedication to writing twice a week. Which I will actually do in July ;) So if you have anything you want to see me post about, or any book suggestions, I’d love to hear them in the comments below. And please do comment, I would love to hear what you like (or don’t like) and your thoughts on the things I write about.

But I digress- to the review!

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What I Read: Cry, the Beloved Country

4.5/5 pineapples

CryBelovedCountry Cover

ISBN: 9780743262170; 316 pages; Pub. 1948

Oh, do I want to give Cry, the Beloved Country five stars so bad. It has everything I love in a book: beautiful language, an intriguing plot, thought-provoking themes, and characters you care about. Written in the 1940s about South African life, it also appeals to my historical side and makes me think about a completely different life than I know.

Alan Paton wrote Cry, the Beloved Country to discuss the issues plighting his home country for many years. The novel was developed as Paton traveled through Europe and North America. After one particularly rough bout of homesickness came Kumalo, Zulu pastor and main character. Kumalo’s journey and subsequent story is what pulled me through the novel, but it was Paton’s passion for South Africa’s issues and lyrical writing that made the reading experience pleasurable.

But here comes the missing .5: Even though the hardships Kumalo endures are only a part of the story, I felt that once they were wrapped up the story should have ended. I raced through the first two books in the novel, but it took me a week to finish the final 50 or so pages. Paton dragged me through those final chapters, chapters I felt could have been summarized in an epilogue and made much more powerful.

If there was a deeper meaning behind the final chapters, focused on Kumalo’s community, I missed them. I missed them because I felt like I was forced to read past the true end of the plot, past what I as a reader was entitled to know. However, the last chapter was beautiful, and I appreciated the closure it brought the characters. It also felt like it had a true purpose in the novel, as a way to sum up all the questions Paton was writing about.

Which is a part of why I like this book: it asks questions. There is no clear answer to how South Africa can change, only examples of the people and problems that live in it and why some sort of action is necessary. Paton lets the reader decide what is right/wrong, and what might be the change the country needs. Kumalo invested me into this entirely foreign world, but it was the beloved country that made me desire a change in people blinded by fear.

Have you read Cry, the Beloved Country? What did you think? I’m thinking The Bean Trees is going to be my next book… Barbara Kingsolver, here I come!

leeann

What I Read: Gone Girl

4/5 pineapples

Gone Girl Cover

ISBN: 9780297859383; 395 pages; Pub. 5/24/12

After all the rave reviews, I assumed this was going to be the best. Book. Ever. But you know what they say when you assume…

Okay, so this wasn’t the best book ever but it was still pretty great and maybe my expectations are just too high (I’m a picky book person). Gillian Flynn is an amazing writer and I enjoyed how much she twisted my mind as I read Gone Girl. There’s no clear “bad” and “good” involved, and that’s just what I like about it. Flynn has created a very unconventional novel, one where you never know where to place your alliances and who to trust (spoiler: no one). I liked how she kept me on my toes, especially after the first section.

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What I Read: Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek

4/5 pineapples

Popular cover

First off: Maya Van Wagenen, I love you. You did what I always wanted to do (write a well-known book as a teenager) and you did it with style. You are who I wish I was in eighth grade. You are who I wish I had in eighth grade. And I’m so glad you wrote this book so that the millions of eighth grades like you and me out there have the reassurance that there are others like us out there. And it will be okay.

Gushy feelings aside, Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, is sweet book about the realities of American middle schools and just what it really takes to be popular. It’s a super fast read (took me about 4 hours) and one that will remind you of those horrid middle school years, but then turn everything around to make you smile.

Van Wagenen’s voice is refreshing in a world dominated by adult writers and I just love her guts, however I did find the writing style a little simple and the beginning a little slow. She is fifteen, and she writes like a very naturally talented fifteen-year-old; lacking the polish and detail “practiced” writers have. This didn’t bother me a ton, but did tug at me throughout the book. (Bare in mind, I’m reading this a week after pouring over college reading-level books, so it just jolted me into a new genre). I found myself in despair by the series of events and results she recorded, rooting for her constantly but finding myself forever frustrated by the end results at several months.

It wasn’t until the final chapters that I just got it, as I think most readers of this book do. Popularity is something Van Wagenen attempts to define, and she does a beautiful job. The last sections add everything up, and all of her trials and errors before just make sense. Van Wagenen made me want to be a better version of myself, and I think that’s one of the most powerful things a book can do.

Have you read Popular? What did you think? I really enjoy memoirs, so please suggest any you like!

leeann