Thursday, August 29, 2013

Comfort reading

So, things have been pretty quiet around here for the past couple of weeks.  It's not, for once, because I've been slacking off.  Nope, I've been pretty darn sick.  (And yet, how awesome is it that I've found a cartoon about flu that is also a literary pun?)  And while I've certainly spent a significant portion of the past two weeks flat on my back in bed, there's also been the necessity of getting back up and working.  So, basically it's been bed and work for a while. 

At one point, I had the crazy thought that I could catch up on my reviewing.  Yeah, not so much.  I haven't had a lot of mental energy.  These are the first words I've written, and even this insipidness is a challenge.  So what have I been doing with myself?  Watching The View and Dr. Phil?  Nah.  I've been reading.  More specifically, I've been comfort reading.

I wasn't kidding about not having a lot of mental energy.  I've got some amazing fall literary fiction in my hands that I can't wait to read.  But I'm waiting.  I just can't handle the literary fiction right now.  I can't handle anything too challenging.  Mostly, I've been seeking the light and entertaining, the diverting, and feel-good or funny fiction is a bonus.  (Though I've made a couple of missteps along the way into darker territory.)  And I've been comfort reading in volume.  I've read 17 books in the past 12 days.  For those who are wondering, here's exactly what I've been reading:

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde - I love Jasper Fforde!  He makes me happy when all else
fails.  I read this novel sometime before it was published last year.  But the sequel will be out in a few months, and I got the audiobook cheap, so I decided to revisit book one of this YA series before reading...

The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde - See above.  Jasper Fforde is awesome, whether
writing for kids or adults, and frankly, I don't see a whole lot of difference in his whimsical tales for either audience.  Also, I love that Twitter will auto-fill the word "quarkbeast."  Jasper FForde is wildly inventive, endlessly clever, and always, always funny.  I love him.

Don't Look Now by Michelle Gagnon - This is the second book in the trilogy that began with the awesome Don't Turn Around, a book that I absolutely could not put down last year.  Don't Look Now suffers a bit from being the middle book in a trilogy, but it leaves me hungering for next years conclusion.  (Michelle lives in my neighborhood in San Francisco and is a friend.  I am planning on getting her very drunk sometime in the next few months and tricking her into giving me the unpublished MS.) 

The Cure by Douglas E. Richards - Now, if you were sick and had a book
called The Cure on your kindle, you'd read it, right?  Sadly, the forthcoming The Cure was not the cure for what ailed me.  I'd describe it as a science fiction novel masquerading as a thriller.  I really have nothing good to say about it, which is unfortunate.  His earlier novels, Wired and Amped, were highly recommended by mutual friend Boyd Morrison, who's opinion I trust.  This latest, alas, is a real miss.  And a real mess.  Made me feel sicker.  Ugh.

Covet by Tracey Garvis Graves - Did anyone read her (originally self-published) mega-hit novel On the Island?  Man, that was a guilty pleasure!  Everything about that earlier story was extraordinary.  I mean, a young man and older woman marooned on a deserted island?  Extraordinary circumstances.  Her follow-up, Covet, is exactly the opposite.  It's as common a story as they come.  More than a decade into a once happy marriage, a husband ignores his wife and she finds someone else to pay her attention.  That scenario simply couldn't top or even equal the deserted island tale, but the characters grew on me.  It was sort of Desperate Housewife-ish, which the author acknowledges.  It passed the time.

A Bad Day for Romance by Sophie Littlefield - Hmmm, it's been a nearly unprecedented length of
time since I've mentioned Sophie on the blog.  How odd.  This was a bittersweet read for me.  Bittersweet is that it was just as awesome as all of the other Stella Hardesty novels, but it is also supposedly the last.  If that's the case, both Stella and Sophie have ended the series on a high note.  It was fantastic, with all the terrific character-based humor I've come to expect.

Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History by Glen Berger - Oh, that title is so true!  Like millions of theater lovers, I followed this musical's disastrous path to the Great White Way avidly.  It was like watching a train wreck, but you couldn't look away.  This non-fiction work from the most inside of insiders was absolutely fascinating!  Definitely as drama-filled as anything you will ever see on a stage!

The Returned by Jason Mott - This book had a slew of starred reviews in the trades, and had a ton of buzz at BEA.  It's even being turned into a television series.  I wanted to read it before Tuesday's publication date.  It's an excellent, thought-provoking novel of ideas and emotion.  Probably both too smart and to heavy for sick-bed reading.  I cried a lot.  It's well worth checking out.

Dangerous Curves Ahead by Sugar Jamison  - In an effort not to think so much, I turned to chick-lit.  I have a weakness for chick-lit about zaftig Jewish girls.  There's quite a lot of it out there.  This one was fairly contrived and ridiculous.  She digs him, he digs her; the obstacles along their path to true happiness were pure contrivance.  Still, it was a quick and somewhat steamy diversion.  I've read worse.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - This was another misstep from the all-fluff comfort reading.  I've been hearing nothing but wonderful things about this YA WWII drama since it was published last year.  I've thought about reading it time and time again, but it was receiving a galley of the sequel, Rose Under Fire, that finally inspired me to do so.  First, let me say that I don't even know why this book is classified as YA.  It seemed wholly adult to me.  It's an intense wartime tale, and very sad as books about Nazi torture tend to be.  But what a terrific look at women's contribution to the war effort!  Excellent, but I definitely need a break before tackling book two.  Not fluffy.

Six Years by Harlan Coben - It is shocking to me that as many thrillers as I read, I've never before read a Harlan Coben novel.  I am unlikely to suddenly start reading his long-running series.  However, his most recent novel, Six Years, was a stand alone.  I completely enjoyed this intro to his work.  It was fast-paced, well-plotted, well-written, and had an appealing everyman protagonist.  I shall look forward to seeking out more of his stand alone titles.

The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich - This book has been on my radar for months, but I just wasn't sure about it.  But picking it up for $1.99 as part of the Kindle Daily Deal was a no-brainer.  I also picked up the audiobook for cheap, which was a good call on my part.  I often avoid author-read audiobooks, but occasionally they're excellent.  I can't imagine anyone who could do a better job reading Rich's material.  And collectively these stories are hysterical!  I couldn't contain my inappropriate laughter in public places as I was listening to it.  Rich's humor is absurd, whimsical, weird, and sublime.  And look, this one may become a television show, too.

Wayward by Blake Crouch - It was receiving this galley of book two in Crouch's Wayward Pines Trilogy that had finally inspired me to read book one, Pines, a couple of weeks ago.  I really loved it!  It was an absolute page-turner, and book two did not disappoint.  It picked up right where the first had left off, and again I'm waiting a year for the conclusion.  BTW, this too has been picked up for television, by M. Night Shamalan with a starry cast.  I could see both Wayward Pines and The Returned working quite well on television, and I'm looking forward to both adaptations.

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler - This novel concerns 23-year-old Esme, a British woman in New York to pursue her Ph.D. in art history at Columbia.  Early in the novel she discovers that the one night she and her new boyfriend failed to take precautions has led to an accidental pregnancy.  This leads to all the turmoil and conflict one might expect, and also to a part-time job at a second-hand bookstore.  I'm not very interested in pregnancy or babies, but I've spent a ridiculous amount of time shooting the breeze in used bookstores.  I loved the environment and community Meyler depicted.  And I was pleased by this smarter than average example of women's fiction.

Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - I've had this audiobook in my library for quite a while now.  It's been nearly 20 years (!) since I first read this awesome debut by this duo who have become two of my favorite authors.  I've been wanting to revisit this novel for ages, but it's always so hard to rationalize these rereads.  But not when you feel really cruddy and are allowed to indulge in anything that might possibly make you feel better.  And it did make me feel better!  After all these years, the characters introduced in Relic have become old friends, but it was really fantastic revisiting their origins.  Pendergast was not yet fully developed into the quirky character he would later become, although I did smile near the end when he said, "It's a bad habit, but one I find hard to break."  And his dynamic with D'Agosta was very different in this first outing.  None of that, "My dear Vincent..." stuff.  I'll be honest, I liked this milder Pendergast.  Relic is still a terrific science thriller and a really accomplished debut novel.  I read it in just a few hours and for those hours I was happy.  I also have the audiobook of Reliquary on deck.  Something tells me I won't be able to wait long before I listen to it.

Never Go Back by Lee Child -  I've been in the mood for a Reacher novel.  I was just getting ready
to raid the audio library when Random House sent over a galley of next weeks release.  Thank you, Random House, for your awesome timing!  Never Go Back is as predictably enjoyable of all Child's other novels.  Reacher is a fascinating character.  Does this latest novel shed new light on the character?  Possibly it does.  But even if it doesn't, he's so endlessly fascinating by virtue of his otherness.  And it is, of course, intricately plotted, with excellent action sequences, and lots and lots of sudden violence.

What's on deck for tomorrow?  I'm not sure yet.  Very likely more comfort reading.  Or maybe I'll take another swing at the forthcoming Alice Hoffman novel.  Hopefully, I'll get my brain back soon.  I've got upcoming novels by Jhumpa Lahiri, Dara Horn, Paul Harding, Lorrie Moore, and so many more waiting to be read.  And, ugh, the reviews not written.  My head spins--but that could be the flu. 

Anyway, readers, hold on a few more days.  I've already written reviews for two awesome books being released next week, and I've got some great video to share soon.  I'll be back up to speed any day now.  Meanwhile, I've discovered that comfort reading is a good thing.  I should indulge a little more often.


  1. Phew! I'm exhausted now. What a marathon of reading! I hope you're feeling a little better today. See you soon.

  2. Whoa! You have been busy. I never get that much read when I'm sick! Hope you're on the mend :)

  3. aw, you sweet little poor thing :( i am so sorry you're still poorly. sending good thoughts your way.

  4. I read an ARC of NEVER GO BACK. I wasn't impressed. Jack Reacher fans will be glad to see it, I guess, and they will probably love it. I didn't.

    This story is corny, even cartoonish. Jack Reacher is an all-knowing superman with supersenses and an ability to predict the future. Almost everything that happens is either impossible or unlikely.

    By comparison, Child's ONE SHOT is less corny and even enjoyable. Perhaps that is because Child could write anything he wanted about the fictional places and circumstances in ONE SHOT. Whereas, in NEVER GO BACK, Reacher goes back to the U.S. army, where his actions are questionable; no one could get away with what he gets away with in NEVER GO BACK.

  5. Thanks, everyone, for the good thoughts. Recovery is slow. The comfort reading continues. There will have to be a part II next week.

  6. Techeditor,

    I see your point, but Never Go Back worked for me. Child sold the events without straining my credulity past the breaking point. Reacher is a sort of superman, so I expect these stunts from him. I read One Shot a few months ago. I don't think it was especially more believable.