Book List: The Review Part 2

Ah here we are again. Book discussion time!! I’m making my way through the book list quite beautifully and I think I’ll only have one more update before we make a totally NEW list! So, start thinking (and continue reading) about which books you’d want to make everybody (me) read. At the end of all of the reviews I’m going to post my 3 favorites so hopefully I’ll help you narrow some new reads down if you are still searching for something awesome. Now then… here we go! If you missed part 1, you can check it out here.

The Fifth book in my journey was Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans. This is a book of short stories from a writer who is alive, and old enough to be my friend but not old enough to be my mother. I had read one of her stories in one of the Best American Short Stories collections… It may have been 2010 or 2009, but I can’t remember now. What I do remember is that it was the only story I thought of, even to this day, from any of the Best American collections. She is an amazing writer and her stories are so real they could be happening to your neighbor, but so captivating they keep you turning the page.

My favorite story of the collection is called Snakes. But then as I was flipping through just now to find the name of it, I started remember all of the other stories and they all became my favorites too. So I guess my second favorite is Wherever You Go, There You Are and my third favorite is The King of a Vast Empire.

I have nothing bad to say about this book. Even if you don’t like short stories, you should run out and buy it and read it (maybe even savor it). You’ll be thinking about the characters and these stories for months years.

I picked up The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho as the sixth read because I was ready for a little magic and a solid novel.

It was not what I expected.

It’s kind of written in an experimental way, it’s in chronological order but the entire book is made up of many different peoples’ accounts of the witch and how she interacted with them, or what they heard or felt about her. I found it initially slow and my mind occasionally wandered. But! It’s an incredibly calming read, incredibly thoughtful, and every time I picked it up I felt like I was going on a spiritual journey.

If  you’re in the mood for some self-reflection, some pondering about the nature of the world and how we’re all inter-connected (with some magic and intrigue thrown in) you should check this out. You know what it kind of reminds me of? It’s a Benjamin Button story (minus the weird aging) or a Forrest Gump type of thing (without the Jen-ney), a character driven story to the max.

Seventh was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and Oh My God! This is the book I missed my train stop while reading. For reals. I love it so much because it is so fun and even though some of the romance stuff is over the top, the story is actually really smart. I love the historical fiction, I love the quirky characters, I love that the main character, Claire, is really smart and complicated and she hardly ever makes me roll my eyes. I LOVE THIS BOOK.

You guys, I love it so much that I had to start reading the eighth book early. I couldn’t read this book before work after my first week diving into it. It was too intense!! I would be at work, and for the first entire half of the day my brain would be in the Scottish highlands falling in love with a burly red-headed man and trying to escape the perils of the red coats. I am not even kidding. I have asked Kamel to adopt a Scottish accent several times. His response: “You really need to stop reading that book.” Yeah right… This is the most full on FUN I’ve had with a book in a really long time. I would say 70% of the books I read are page-turners, and about 20% of those are also incredibly smart and rave-worthy, but only about 5% of those are this fun.

But! I can’t decide if I want to head into the whole series of them. I’m having mixed feelings about getting book #2 and spending whole afternoons and evenings completely shackled to my book. It really really was preoccupying. I would get excited thinking about getting back to it! And then when I finished I mourned for two days that the story had ended and I couldn’t just go on living in this world FOREVER. Ok… I think you get the idea. So i’m not sure what to do. I know that the series kind of peters out when it comes to quality and I don’t want the story to become frustrating or unenjoyable. Please, give me some guidance on this one.

Like I mentioned above, number eight began as I was reading Outlander in order to keep myself functional. And what better book for sanity than… Watership Down by Richard Adams. A book about bunnies. All bunnies all the time.

The lovely Laura recommended this one. I remember because I thought, “Really? Bunnies?? Well… Laura said it was good… so I’m sure it’s amazing.” But I’m sort of still feeling like… really? Bunnies?

I generally have a hard time with stories about animals. I like animals, I do. I cried many times during Old Yeller. And I think dogs are awesome, and that cats are out to take over the world. And baby bunnies are kind of the bestest. But, I just have a really hard time caring about this story.

It’s a really fast read, there are a lot of things that happen in short bursts so it kept me relatively entertained with the pace, but every once in a while I would pop my head up and wonder… why am I giving a shit about the bunnies?

Laura, and anyone else who has read this, can you explain this to me? Even as I type this I feel like I’m probably a bad person for not caring MORE about this story. Am I just an ass hole? (The answer is: Yes, you bunny hating jerk.)

Alright! Who has read these books? What did you think? Should I read the next Outlander or will it just make me crazy and/or mad? Who is going to run out and buy Danielle Evans’ book of short stories? And who cares about bunnies? I’d like a show of hands please.

24 thoughts on “Book List: The Review Part 2”

  1. Oh my gosh, Outlander, I KNOW! I was the same way the first time I read it. I know that I (and several other commenters on the book list post) all said the quality of the later ones isn’t quite as good as the first two, but I definitely think they’re still worth reading. I think part of it for me is that the whole shebang moves over to colonial America, which is a time/place in history I am not quite as interested in as Scotland/England during the same time period. Still, they’re good– the first two (and a half) are just my favorites.

    Plus, you meet one of my favorite characters, Lord John Grey (again, but this time for real) in the third book– and then there is a subset of novels written about him that are quite good as well. They are shorter than the ones in the original series, and take place in time after the third book. They are also not about time travel- they are more like historical mysteries. http://www.dianagabaldon.com/writing/lord-john-gray/

    At any rate, I’m so glad you read and liked the first one!! 🙂

    1. Ok. This makes me feel definitely better about diving back in. I just… here are my main concerns:

      1) I don’t want it to end poorly. I’m already too invested and if she goes back to the present time and STAYS THERE I will be really really pissed.

      2) It’s kind of emotionally exhausting. I get really invested and lose whole days to these books! I’m so ridiculous. haha.

      1. It doesn’t end poorly! Actually, it hasn’t even ended. I think there are 8 books out at the moment, with a ninth coming out next spring. And (this isn’t really a spoiler, since… there has to be SOMETHING to fill those other books, hah, and the whole story is structured around Jamie and Claire) although she does go back to the present- as you will know in the first few pages of the second book- she doesn’t stay there. Hooray!

        I also understand about the emotional investment, though. Those books are freaking EPIC!

  2. Ahaha. I don’t think you’re a bunny-hating jerk! 😉 The Fiance has never been able to get into this one either…even though I’ve told him numerous times “IT IS MY FAVORITE BOOK YOU MUST READ IT!”

    I think for me, I forget VERY soon that these creatures are…bunnies. I know it sounds weird, but I read them as people (and yes, I also talk to my cats. Like they’re people. Not TOTALLY crazy, right?). And I’ve ALWAYS been impressed by Adams’ ability to make me forget that I’m reading about bunnies. I get lost in what amounts to a great adventure story–a book about a group of varied individuals who are forced out of their home, and have to forge a new one.

    And I love/envy Adams’ strength in building up tension until it reaches this great action climax…those chapters near the end, where Bigwig is in the “enemy” warren, and then the escape in the lightning storm? Hot damn. If I could write a great action piece like that, I’d be tickled!

    I’ve never read any of Adam’s other books, so I’m not sure if his writing extends to those other ones, or if this was sort of a once-in-a-lifetime thing…but it’s one story that’s always going to stick with me.

    Aaaand clearly, Outlander needs to be my next Kindle book (since I’m almost done with The Handmaid’s Tale. I AM FINALLY READING ATWOOD!).

    1. Also:

      “And then when I finished I mourned for two days that the story had ended and I couldn’t just go on living in this world FOREVER. ”

      Dude. I understand. That’s how I felt when I finished “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” I was in the WEIRDEST FUNK for about a week. Which, even at the time, I thought THIS IS RIDICULOUS IT’S A BOOK. But whatya gonna do. Sometimes you just get lost.

      1. This makes me feel so much less crazy!!! Because I kept thinking – the whole time I was reading – how much this felt like Time Traveler’s Wife with how it pulled me in and how it distracted me from my real life and how I MOURNED it after it was over. Gahhhh. Ok, I’m glad I’m not alone in this.

          1. “…it distracted me from my real life and how I MOURNED it after it was over.”

            Oh my god, yes! That is exactly how I felt about ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ as well!

            Also, it was always funny to me that two of my favorite books are about time travel (in some way) with a protagonist named Claire/Clare. Hah.

    2. I’m totally with you on everything EXCEPT the part where I forget they are bunnies. The action and the amount of STUFF that happens and all realistically – not how some stories move to fast and you’re like woah woah woah there. This makes sense and the story moves at quite a clip.

  3. I’m a slow reader (damn you, Netflix), so I’ve been reading the same book or two for, oh, two months now. Once I finish them, I’m totally reading that Goon Squad book you wrote about last time and I think I’m about to order this book of short stories. I rarely like short stories, but when I do, I really really do (Tim O’Brien’s, Miranda July’s – <3 <3)

      1. Hahahahah moby dick! Ok, yes… you need to read it, but i think you can read some fun things before diving into the great white whale. 🙂

        And netflix… it is the greatest time waster EVER created, even worse than facebook.

  4. I was crossing my fingers that my hearts would magically transform like they do on facebook and my phone.

  5. Ohhh i am now intrigued by Outlander! You sold me. As SOON as i finish the damn Shades trilogy, im putting that next. So which one did you read and think omg-amanda-has-to-read-this?

  6. I completely agree about Outlander! I LOVED it while I was reading it, completely and totally got sucked into it. But I haven’t been able to bring myself to read the next one yet. Feels like I need to take a break before I’m ready to be so consumed by a book again 🙂

  7. I haven’t read any of these — oh, except for Watership Down, and I do believe that was in the eighth grade — but I say why not read the next in the Outlander series? I mean, you obviously enjoyed it very much, why deny yourself that pleasure? And if the other books turn out to be not-so-great, you can always stop reading.

  8. Thanks for the Outlander recommendation! I just finished The Hunger Game trilogy (and was wracked with emotions – something about grieving in my own right and then grieving with the characters was super addictive/helpful/spiritual/exhausting) and would love something to throw myself into on an upcoming trip.

    Also, I think I saw you on Market Street yesterday. I had a mouthful of burrito and we were walking the opposite way in a cross walk, but I swore it was you. Too funny!

    1. Melinda!

      1) You’re going to love Outlander. Seriously. And after you read the first one PLEASE let me know what you thought.

      2) You probably did see me on Market yesterday! I was wearing a blue striped shirt and a brown thingy over it. And jeans. I just got back from strolling down Market street today actually. 🙂 Next time poke at me!

  9. I will definitely have to read Outlander. I have a thing for Scottish accents… My husband refuses to try to speak in one too. Sigh. 🙂 I am in need of reading material for my trip to Europe soon.

      1. Fortunately my husband will be with me and he can drag me off the plane. As I read, if necessary. Otherwise I wouldn’t risk it. 🙂

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