Oh my gosh. It has been way too long since I have done a review. I finally (FINALLY!) unpacked all of the books from the move. Yay! And found the stack of books from The Second Book List. Yay! So back to reading for me. Thank goodness.
This second batch of books was kind of one dud after another (except for The Likeness by Tana French!) which was an overall bummer, but then also made sense in a weird way. So let’s start discussing. Hopefully you have read some of these and we can take about them in comments.
So, the first book I read in this batch was The Likeness by Tana French (as mentioned above). This is one of the most perfect murder mysteries I have read. The set up is interesting – not typical, but the dead body shows up right at the beginning – just how it should, so right up front I am into it. The Likeness is one of the most plot heavy books I’ve read as well. A lot of the books I read are very internal, and the outside action is not as focused on as the inside action. The pace of this book is fairly quick, a lot of things happen. This is one of the books I would love love love to see made into a movie.
While I was on the train, gobbling up the last few chapters of this book, a woman sitting next to me (on the floor because the train was so freaking packed this day) interrupted me to ask about the book. She had read the other Tana French novel (in this pseudo-series), In The Woods (I think?), and said she had been unsatisfied with the ending. I told her that the ending to The Likeness was very satisfying and she should totally read it. Which is true and very hard to do! The ending is interesting, fast paced, and peters out nicely. I tried really hard to finish the book before my stop so I could nonchalantly hand it to, as a reader to reader paying it forward, but my stop came up too fast and I had to get off the train with only 3 pages to go. Bummer. But so far this book is a major contender for my favorite out of the second book list. So so good, and really fun – highly recommend.
The second book I attempted to tackle was Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar. Whoever has read this book before me is a freaking genius. Let me just say that right up front. I got about 50 pages in and I had to stop. I just couldn’t. The book is dense and very long. The story – which the reader is able to read in 2 different sequences (the chapters are number 2 different ways) – is about a bunch of bohemians in Paris. Their love affairs and failures and so and so forth. The book is a jumble of Spanish, french, and English, and the beyond not being able to keep any of the character’s names straight (first and last name continue to be referenced independently of each other and not consistently), I felt like I was missing much of the nuance with my limited knowledge of French and my next to nothing knowledge of Spanish. So I gave up. I was way too sleep deprived to make heads or tales of it. I needed a professor to explain it to me and give me highlighted passages to write 10 page essays on. Who has read this? Tell me about how wonderful it is! I am dying to understand.
Thennnnn, I read Under The Feet Of Jesus, by Helena Maria Viramontes. It is a short book, but is filled the amazingly tragic and poetic prose. It follows a family of Mexican migrant workers, something I have always been fascinated with. This book reminds me a lot of The Grapes of Wrath, while being about 1/8th its size. It is beautiful to read and at the same time incredibly difficult to read. I feel like everyone should read this book and allow it to open up discussion about immigration, citizenship, and how our food gets to our table.
There was a documentary on PBS yesterday about the history of Mexican-Americans (and then Cuban-Americans) in this country and it talked a lot about Cesar Chavez and the unionization of migrant workers. So little of that history is taught in schools and it is a major part of the civil rights movement. It is bizarre to me that immigration is talked about in current politics and debated and pandered towards and blahblahblah, yet the history of it and the human part of it seems to be ignored. Under The Feet Of Jesus is really good. Heart breaking, but a really important story.
Lastly, before we moved and all books were lost for two months, I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. And holy shit. I had no idea what this book was about before I opened it. I figured…. motorcycles? And it is, sort of. Except not. It’s about life and happiness and the journeys we all take and blahblahblah existentialism. In the foreground there is an epic Father-Son motorcycle trip, which is actually really really interesting. There is a lot going on with the Dad, who is the narrator, and a lot going on with his son, and they have a complicated relationship. I spent a lot of time wondering where the mom was and why they never called her to check in and why the dad would have wanted to go on such a long trip on a motorcycle with his young son, and how that part kind of didn’t make sense. But then I would get sucked into these long asides about the meaning of life and have to skim a few pages to get back to the plot.
I am not a fan, I do not recommend it. I understand why it has such a cult following, but for me – this is not why I read. I do read to learn about the human condition, I do read to understand different types of people better, but I also read to be entertained, to go on a journey I have never been on and will never go on. I read to be challenged, but not in this way. Have you read this book? Do you love it? Am I just a numbskull who hasn’t opened up my mind to the universe? That is a possibility. I have also never ridden on a motorcycle… full disclosure.
Now it is your turn. Have you read this? Have you wanted to? I’m dying to hear your experiences.