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Summer Reading

Friday, September 14, 2012

Whilst on holiday, I managed to burn through five books (one of which I have already reviewed on here) so I thought it would be easier if I wrote mini reviews. 

How To Talk To A Widower by Jonathan Tropper 

After reading This Is Where I Leave You, I purchased this Jonathan Tropper novel. It was similar thematically (death, family, religion, love) but they still felt like two very different books so I was not disappointed. 

How To Talk To A Widower follows Doug who has become a widower and a step-dad before he has even hit thirty. Doug is trying to come to terms with losing the love of his life whilst: writing a column for a magazine on his stages of grief; trying to start dating again; and dealing with his family who all have their own paritcular forms of baggage. His closest confidante and champion is his twin sister and with her help Doug realises he has to start living again.

The characters were fun but full of humanity, which is a difficult thing to accomplish. Jonathan Tropper seems to be gifted when it comes to writing about life and death, as he manages to make it poignant and hearfelt without an abundance of tears and wallowing. 

Once again, it was so easy to picture the main characters (definitely Bryan Greenberg for Doug). I'm sure this will be turned into a film too- although I think it would be better as a mini series. Overall, I was very impressed with this book and would reccomend it to people who, like me, might fancy a break from the YA and don't necessarily want chick-lit but also aren't quite ready to delve into one of those bigger tomes (Cloud Atlas- I'm looking at you). 

Soundtrack Suggestion: Days Go By- Dirty Vegas

North Of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley 

Terra is a high achieving high schooler who happens to have a big birthmark on her face. After trying another round of laser treatment, she heads off to China and tries to come to terms with her life. 

I struggled with this one. I almost didn't bring it on holiday even though I was halfway through it. I really, really wanted to like it because the subject matter makes you feel like you should like it. However, I think I just didn't get the main character, Terra. It seemed like the birthmark was going to be the main story and the main issue but it wasn't. Instead, it just seemed to be about her "high status man candy". her "hot body", and her "army of skanks"- ok not really 100% true but I like to get a Mean Girls reference in whenever I can. 

Anyhoo, the story just didn't seem to be going anywhere for me. What was it supposed to be about? I read it, so I should know, right? But I don't. I think there were too many elements- art, birthmarks, high school, boyfriends, China, distant brothers, angry dad... I could go on. In addition, I didn't think the relationship between Terra and her fancyman was very believable. Also, I think if a book is going to focus on a year in the life of teenager X then teenager X needs to be very bloody interesting. A good example, in my opinion, is a book I read recently called Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

However, I will say that Terra's mother's story was very compelling. In fact, her story would have made for a much more interesting novel, which is now making me wonder if Justina Chen Headley has written any adult books. I will have to take a look. 

All in all, it was not my favourite but that's ok. You can't like everything. 

Girls In White Dresses by Jennifer Close

I do enjoy these twentysomething coming of age dramedy novels. If I were a marketing exec at Amazon or whatever I would sell this in conjunction with the HBO's 'Girls' box set.

Girls In White Dresses follows three best friends (Isabella, Laura and Mary) as they navigate the rocky territory between graduating from college and "adulthood". Mostly, this involves moving to new cities, getting new jobs and of course, attending all of the weddings. 

First of all, I liked that this book had proper chapters. Chapters that weren't too long, had substance and were titled. I also liked that it spun out from the main characters into their peripheral friends every now and then without seeming too random. It must be difficult to control three characters and all the emotions and events they are going through but Jennifer Close always seemed in control and never out of her element. This was probably helped by her simple, reported style of writing which was refreshing. It kept the lenght in check too. I don't need to be bogged down by too much description. 

Girls In White Dresses definitely won't appeal to everybody, in fact it will probably only appeal to a small minority due to the subject matter but I liked it. There were lots of observations that rang true for me and that's what usually tips a book from just being ok into your well liked pile. 

Soundtrack Suggestion: All My Friends- LCD Soundsystem

Bond Girl by Erin Duffy

Like Girl In White Dresses, Bond Girl will not be everybody's cup of tea, especially as people seem to equate Wall Street/City workers with devil spawn right now (which is not really true but too big of an issue to go into here). However, I loved it. 

The blurb/the press/someone of Goodreads compared it to The Devil Wears Prada, and it was similar in the sense that we get a glimpse into a world that is generally still mysterious to the general public. However, the aims of the two novels are different I think and I preferred Alex to Andi. This is mainly because I know Alex's world more than Andi's. I could nod and simle knowingly at Alex's descriptions of the games, the pranks, the nicknames, the lingo. 

It was more of a thinly veiled memoir than a full on novel. There didn't seem to be much of a story, no themes to speak of, no great arcs resolved at the end (except for maybe the colleague storyline, which was handled well), yet that still didn't seem to matter as I raced through the pages. The supporting characters were all very good and you can tell they were 100% based on Erin Duffy's friends and colleagues. Chick was a great boss. 

Overall, I found this to be highly compelling. However, if you're looking for a beach read and you're not interested in government bonds then perhaps this is not for you. 

Soundtrack Suggestion: Opportunities- Pet Shop Boys
                                       Mo Money Mo Problems- The Notorious B.I.G

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