July has turned out to be a schizo kind of month, both for my reading and for life. On the life side it began with all my energy focused on getting us out of Seattle, into an apartment, and getting Seattle house rented out—all by the end of the month. That all came to a stop and I’ll be in our house until October, but it’s left me discombobulated because Jed had to move now for his job.
My reading reflects how addled my brain is these days: almost nothing works. I’m in a Goldilocks headspace—everything is too fast or too slow, too much plot or not enough. I’m fussy about everything. Here’s my reading porridge:
Bunny by Mona Awad
Published by Viking
Publication date: June 11, 2019
Bunny was one of my picks for summer reading and if I were a college student lying semi-drunk on the beach in July and wanted something to read it would probably work. As a middle-aged woman I had to give up at 30%. Samantha is a writer and an outsider at a prestigious NE school until a group of the cool girls, who refer to each other only as Bunny, invite her in. It’s written in a sarcastic, disaffected, almost satirical way, but the author goes so over-the-top with her disdain for everything around Samantha that it gets exhausting. Oh, and there’s some kind of funky black magic element as well so it reads like a whacked-out allegory, possibly about identity. The lines between what’s real and what isn’t are not blurred, they’re lost.
Published by Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date: May 21, 2018
When I devour non-fiction like it’s a novel, you know it has to be good. This is the easiest 5-stars I’ve ever given. Bad Blood is the story of a college dropout who manages to scam arrogant, wealthy, old, white investors out of almost a billion dollars for a medical device that any medical professional could see would not work. Her company was called Theranos and reading its history and her role in committing fraud is addictive. I could not put this book because it sounded so completely implausible but every bit of it is true. If the book isn’t enough you can also watch the HBO documentary Out for Blood, or listen to the podcast The Dropout.
Published by Ecco
Publication date: June 25, 2019
The Gone Dead takes place in the Mississippi Delta and, sadly, is as meandering and muddy as the river itself. When Billie James inherits her father’s cabin she goes home after 30 years away. A poet and activist, his death was deemed an accident, but there are whispers it may have been murder. The novel follows her as she tries to find answers, but aside from the rampant racism in the town where she’s staying, nothing else becomes clear until the very last chapter. Too many ancillary characters, including a professor who wants to write a book about her father.
A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar: I loved this atmospheric coming-of-age novel set in the arid Southwest. My review
The Wolf Wants In by Laura McHugh: Review to follow
The Escape Room by Megan Goldin
Published by St. Martin's Press
Publication date: July 30, 2019
Oh, dear. The premise of The Escape Room was catnip: Four high powered investment bankers in an elevator in an empty building that becomes an escape room ‘game’. This had all the potential to be a great thriller, but the writing was not there. Lots of stylistic tics that make me nuts: repetition in an adjective used to describe a character (feeling vulnerable, looked vulnerable, made him vulnerable—I get it, please stop), repetition with characters’ name in one conversation (“Jules, what do you think? Jules, did you say something? Are you angry, Jules?”), and last but not least excessive descriptions that don’t make sense (how can the color of a tie make your eyes burn with intensity?).
Still, I was curious, so ended up skimming the book and being disappointed at an ending that didn’t add up and felt silly.
If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais: Powerful historical fiction about 3 women in South Africa in the aftermath of Nelson Mandela’s election. My review
The Helpline by Katherine Collette: Review to follow
Published by Avid Reader Press / Simon Schuster
Publication date: July 9, 2019
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There has been an insane amount of buzz around Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women. Words like ‘revolutionary’ have been used which I don’t agree with, but Taddeo wins for writing non-fiction that reads like fiction. The woman knows her way around imagery and metaphors. Beyond that, I agree that the subject of women and their sexuality is an important one, it’s just that it doesn’t interest me as much as the other issues facing women in America right now. So, I read all the way through Maggie’s story, but skimmed the rest.
How was your July reading?