Originally posted on August 5, 2018.
A brief stay-cation gave me an opportunity to dive into some fun reads last month! A week of beach going gave me ample time to finally get around the a spring edition of Poetry magazine (after months of shelf-sitting and dust-gathering), plus I got through two fascinating fiction reads and a timeless piece of non-fiction I've been hoping to read for a good year. I hope you enjoy my July reading round-up!
LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE BY CELESTE NG
This book is beautifully written, brilliantly constructed, and equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful.
The only draw I had was the slow nature of the pacing. It seems that something big would happen, and then things would settle for a long while before the second shoe dropped. This, however, I'll chalk up to personal preference. I'll admit that I like a heavier peppering of drama throughout a book and that I found myself getting a little restless with the downtime in this one.
That being said, the characters are truly what kept me hooked. Celeste Ng writes with beautiful intimacy when it comes to her characters. She peels back their layers bit by bit, the way we ourselves often do when we meet new people. She gives us someone who fits in one dimension in our minds, then unfolds them so we can see their many sides. That kind of reality is striking and intriguing. She then uses her almost uncomfortably real cast to tackle equally real, layered, and complex issues including racial and ethnic identity, motherhood, and the impact of long-held secrets. The small town feel of the book puts each character under a microscope. We get the sense, right off the bat, that everyone is being watched and scrutinized, and it's interesting to see how each one of them reacts to this feeling.
This definitely one of the most interesting books I've ever read. Ng has a beautiful narrative style and truly paints pictures with her words. As I said, the pacing is my only drawback, but that is entirely a "me problem". Otherwise, I truly can't recommend this book enough. It's interesting, thoughtful, and engaging and is sure to get your mind wrestling with some really tough questions.
WISHFUL DRINKING BY CARRIE FISHER
This book was born from Carrie Fisher's one-woman show of the same name, and it certainly reads like it. I definitely recommend the audiobook version over the print, because it gives you that live show feel the book was written to capture, and hearing the stories in Carrie's voice elevates them in a lot of ways - including hilarity!
I had previously read "The Princess Diarist", and although some of the stories repeat between the books, they are told in a way that feels new. I feel like I could listen to Carrie Fisher spin the same anecdotes twenty times and still be riveted for the twenty-first. She was an incredibly gifted storyteller - funny, insightful, thoughtful. She was the kind of person who could be sentimental and sarcastic in the same breath.
This is definitely a must-read for fans of Carrie's. It's so interesting to hear her stories in her own words. It's like getting a chance to sit down with her over coffee - a special, intimate experience.
POETRY MAGAZINE (APRIL 2018) EDITED BY DON SHARE
I picked up this issue when it was first released and finally had the chance to sit and read it. I have to say, off the bat, I love what seeing a magazine with such a long and and storied history dedicating its pages to deserving organizations. There were a lot of really special pieces in here that offered valuable perspectives. I think there are a lot of gems in this issue, but overall I felt something of a disconnect between the three sections that made each page seem jumpy and made it difficult for me to settle into a flow or rhythm with the volume as a whole. I definitely dog-eared some pages to flip back to, but overall I felt like there could have been more cohesion.
IF WE WERE VILLAINS BY M.L. RIO
There's no other way to describe my relationship with this book other than that I'm obsessed with it.
If you're a fan of theater, Shakespeare, and murder mysteries than this is the story for you. It sprinkles in romance and drama in all the right intervals, never letting a single relationship take control of the narrative. I felt so enveloped in this world. I was on the stage with this characters, I was at their cast parties, I was traipsing through Oliver's past alongside him. The pacing was effortlessly flawless - just enough to keep the ending out of reach, but never reaching the point of slow. I found myself unwilling to put the book down. Each chapter called for me to jump to it, and I was in a constant of state of wonder: what happens next? what does this mean? who did it?
I can tell that this is going to be book I re-read again and again. I feel like there's still a lot to pick up that I may have missed the first go around, and I'm excited to dig a little deeper into the story. My only complaint is that I wish there was more of it. I found myself almost sad at the end, flipping through the last few pages as if turning them faster might make more appear. It's a truly brilliant story, and perfectly crafted. I can see why this one blew up on the book club circuit - it's wonderful!