Sunday, May 28, 2023

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

I've seen Emily Henry's cute book covers everywhere but never felt compelled to read one. Also the hold lists are incredibly long at the library, so I figured I'd get to them eventually. When I went to pick up my holds (pictured), People We Meet on Vacation was just sitting on the display shelf, so I grabbed it, not knowing what to expect.

My impression of the author, based on nothing in particular, was that she was more literary than "chick lit" (don't get me started), like Liane Moriarty. And, after reading the book, I think that's true. It was a little more romance-y than I expected. When I started reading it, I was surprised, thinking, "Wow, it's so nice to consume media where a man and woman are legit just friends!" Spoiler alert: joke's on me!

That said, it's not a romance-romance book. It felt realistic but not overwhelming. What I loved most was the travel. I used to travel a lot. After my first "real" job after college closed down, I gave up my lease and lived out of a backpack for about six months, then again a few months after that spree. I was a different person then and the world is different now, so I'm glad I did it when I did, but probably wouldn't do it again. That said, I do miss traveling. And I think this book perfectly captures that freedom and wonder of going to a new place and exploring, talking to people and going with the flow. This book felt like a dozen trips in one and brought back a wave of memories.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

People discussed this book at a family dinner and I was just intrigued enough (before humming to avoid spoilers) to get it from the library. While the writing was a bit clunky, I loved the concept.

If you haven't read this book but want to, this is your cue to start humming...

I thought the rewinding worked so well because I kept thinking, "Oh this is the event that is the undoing." It was really interesting to go back in time and find out what inspired one small action. How you think it's the obvious answer but it's actually something really small you might have forgotten about. I think I love dwelling on that concept more than I liked the book.

But I always love time travel, magical realism, and parallel universe ideas, so this book met that interest. It reminded me of Before the Fall by Lauren Oliver, which I haven't read in years, but the general concept stuck with me. In that book, a girl dies in a car crash and hangs out in purgatory, reliving that one day over and over until she makes things right and can die. It has a narrower and more immediate focus, but a similar foundation.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

In a book where people share their incredibly precise book tastes, I'll start this review by saying I don't like when books exhaustingly reference other literary works because it seems lazy, like they're bringing up specific stories to say, "Yeah... like that."

At the same time, I kind of love these books because literature is how I relate to people. What's your favorite book? What's the last book you read? What required reading did you actually like? What book disappointed you and why?

So getting to know characters this way is like Cliffs Notes. And since this book used short stories? I felt like I was back in college in the best way.

I read this book in about four hours. My mom loaned me her copy and once I started, I couldn't stop. I fell asleep reading it---not a commentary on the story itself---and finished it as soon as I woke up.

Initially, I disliked the massive timeline jumps. It was hard to orient the action, especially paired with the frequent and temporary jumps between points of view. But everything fit together like puzzle pieces, so I think it worked well at the end. The time jumps were especially nice once I reached the end, otherwise I would have been a blubbering mess. Moreso than I actually was.

In general, I prefer books with more character detail, which this book lacks and I think reinforces my theory that leaning so heavily on literary references gets lazy. I could fill in the blanks only because I knew the stories, because I don't think AJ's notes were enough to orient readers unfamiliar with the referenced works.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

A Different Approach

My last blog post was January 2022, and it was the only one of that year. Clearly I had good intentions that just didn't pan out.

I started this blog in 2014 when I was a library science student. I had a newborn and read him picture books all the time. I reviewed picture books and young adult books for classes toward my degree. I volunteered in a library and led reading programs for adults with disabilities. I did an internship. I worked in a public library. I worked in a public school library. I worked in a private school library. Then I left libraries completely when so many people, especially parents, had to change their work-life balance due to lockdown. But my relationships with libraries had already been up and down by that point, so it wasn't a bad situation for me.

While the current situation of defunding libraries enrages me, after seeing what librarians have to put up with, especially with public shootings (especially in my area), I'm not eager to get back to librarianship. I hate feeling that way because I do love libraries, loved my degree program, and would want to work in them again in an ideal world. But the required nights and weekends don't jive with being a single parent, especially since the salary is barely enough to live on even without considering the childcare costs I'd have to add on.

Along with leaving libraries, my son is now older and reads chapter books. I still enjoy the occasional picture book, and young adult novels will always be my jam. But these shifts in my life made me step back and assess my relationship to reading. Since 2020, I've felt like I need to use my time wisely. That means, in my downtime, I need to do something. I'll be honest - it's usually mindless scrolling on my phone. But I'm just as likely to reach for a book. I always read at least 100 books a year, so why haven't I been writing posts about them?

To be fair, I share many of them on Instagram because it's quicker and easier. But I feel like that's my biggest problem lately. I'm reading "just 'cuz." I'm checking out books and reading them to mark them "Read" on Goodreads and feel productive. But honestly, I miss writing more detailed reviews like I used to on this blog. Going back even more, I miss spending weeks on one book in college, reading so much into the language and the references and understanding the story on multiple levels.

I never focused on the newest releases on this blog. I always read what I wanted, often sharing more in-depth author studies that spanned several months or years. And I want to go back to that, to sharing thoughts longer than an Instagram caption. To spending time with one book, even if Goodreads alerts me that I'm behind on my goal. I want to be more thoughtful with what I'm reading and what I take from each book. And hopefully, that purposeful step back will give me more thoughts to share here.

Or this could be the only post I make in 2023. It's hard to tell at this point, isn't it?