This edition of She Made Me Do It has been running for months now and we can't seem to finish it in our current reading moods, so we have to wrap it up. We would like it to be said, though, that Karen is some sort of a reading goddess. Her Goodreads Reader's Advisory group can help ANYONE find what they are looking for in a book and she still rules Goodreads from atop her well-deserved throne. Karen, thanks for the amazing book recommendations!
Our Picks for Karen
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
The Wednesday Wars and Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquival
some girls are
i liked this book a lot. catie knew i liked teen survival books, and she decided to throw me a curveball and twist my inclinations a little by giving me a book that was about survival, yes, but survival in the brutal social-caste systems of high school instead of a forest filled with zombies. although i still prefer the more traditional life-and-death situations that arise in actual survival stories, so i can pick up pointers just in case, i really enjoyed this story. "enjoyed" is a strange word to use for a book so filled with cruelty and horrific behavior, but it was a book i quickly became immersed in, and i probably wouldn't have read it without the push, so i am grateful.i have now read two books by this author, and am excited to read more.
the wednesday wars/okay for now
flannery seems to have wanted to find the warm gooey emotional center of me. both of these books are middle-grade real-life stories that focus on characters struggling with growing-up problems that in the hands of a less-talented writer, could have been very schmaltzy. but they were just good, wholesome stories that were satisfying and showed that it doesn't have to be all date-rape and love triangles and bullying to be compelling and tense. i liked okay for now a scootch more, but only because i think he was able to take the story and broaden it a little; it seemed to be a more mature work in both content and writing. again - i was aware of these books before, but i probably wouldn't have read them without the firm hand of flannery on my back!
like water for chocolate
tatiana knew i liked magical realism and food, and this book has both! i definitely loved the recipes included in here - yum- and i loved the structure of the novel, and it turns out it is a sweeping tragic romance, which is right up my alley! so a big score for this one. i am still not sure why this is considered a landmark of magical realism - it has more of a folktale/family chronicle feeling to it. magical things occur, yes, but not in the way that i typically think of them occurring in more traditional magical realism. but no matter, because i liked it, and i had never really considered reading it before, even though i knew it was well-regarded. i felt i had missed the boat on it, but tatiana shoved me aboard!
thank goodness for these ladies, really. call me anytime.
I have never been as embarrassed and ashamed to write a post for The Readventurer as I am at this moment. The truth is, I've tried reading two of Karen's recommendations and ended up finishing none. I don't know if it would make her feel any better, but I've been in a wonky reading mood for months now. Barely anything appeals to me these days besides an occasional new release from a very familiar author or a comforting re-read. It's unfair of me to expect anyone to save me from this reading limbo, so, sorry, Karen, for putting in you this position. It's a tragic it's-not-you-karen-it's-me kind of reading situation.
The first book I tried was A Drama in Muslin. The comparison to Jane Austen's novels made me sure this
would be the winning choice for me, but alas, George Moore is much less entertaining than Austen, in my opinion. However, it is possible I simply didn't read enough of this novel to appreciate it.
The second attempt I can't even say I disliked. Lullabies for Little Criminals just a few months ago would have been a perfect fit for me, I am sure of it. Karen recommended this book to me as a response to my claim that I liked shocking and disturbing reads, which I do (or, rather, did). It's a dark, very dark novel, and, unfortunately, my body and mind currently reject dark books. If they didn't, I'd be reading J.K. Rowling's new filth-filled book right now and telling you all about it instead of listening to Entertainment Geekly and BBC's Great Lives podcasts and watching Fringe.
So, here was a story of my failure. I hope soon enough I will be able to escape my reading slump and finally get back to enjoying books. I miss it...
Karen chose three spectacular picks for me and I ultimately want to read all of them. So far, I've finished Serena by Ron Rash and it was a great choice for me - a very sinister and dark setting with an utterly ruthless heroine, who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Karen doesn't know this but I also picked up Winesburg, Ohio and read the first few pages. I know that it will be something that I love, but I just wasn't in the right space for it then. This is why I'm so horrible at book clubs/readalongs/challenges/scheduled reading of any sort. It's like there are about twelve readers in my head at any given moment and I don't know who's going to show up when I start a book. It could be Frank, who loves pirate adventures or Sally, who loves to cry or Ned who secretly loves romance. It's a mixed bag. And when I picked up Winesburg, Ohio it was like...oh, sorry Bob who loves subdued and depressing stories...but Sally just showed up and she's demanding that I read a frothy coming of age story right now. You'll have to take a back seat. But anyway, never fear! Bob (and Winesburg, Ohio) will have their day. For now, me and my twelve personalities would like to thank Karen so much for participating in this feature with us!
I think there was a fatal flaw in our design of this feature, so hear me out: Tatiana, Catie, and I speak through email pretty much daily. We talk about the books we start and give up on, which is probably three or four times as many as we finish. We talk about what's going on in our regular lives and what kind of moods we're in. Probably most importantly in this instance, we talk about what we've felt like reading. When Karen picked books for us, she did an amazing job. Honestly, there are very few people I know of who are more knowledgeable than her when it comes to books and right now, no one at all is coming to mind so maybe I should just say she is the most knowledgeable of all human beings with whom I am acquainted. Anyway, I was and am excited to read Karen's picks but I have only read three-fourths of one: The Sea Came In At Midnight by Steve Erickson. I was into it but at that point in time, I was mostly just listening to memoirs and couldn't concentrate on the loveliness of his writing. And it is lovely, for sure. Erickson wove together a few elements in even the beginning that had me wondering how he would sew it all together. A memory hotel where prostitutes can receive people's shared memories? The sole survivor of a mass cult suicide? A lonely man who hires a live-in girl to sleep with him but never speak to him? I have to admit that the last part felt a bit self-indulgent but not altogether unbelievable. Even while I write this, I am kicking myself for never finishing this book before it was due at the library. I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. Also, I think I might just buy a hard copy because there were several passages I wanted to underline, as I love reading about loneliness and existential crises. Karen was spot-on with that choice, and my fickle reading mood is the only thing that prevented me from finishing it.
As for the other two books, Karen got me so pumped that I bought George & Rue right away. I think my dreams want it to be an enthralling Shawshank-era mysterious crime thriller, even though I know it is factual. (or, rather, it is an imagining of a factual crime) Also, I think it might be the best choice for me of the three picks because it is 1. crime; 2. brutal; 3. written in dialect. The last one is the reason I didn't get into it straight off and also the reason I know I will like it when I do. Just read the reviews on Goodreads. The author is also a poet and there are reviews one after the next about how beautiful the writing is and how successful the dialect is. (and how raw the violence, is which I tend to love in a book) But when I look back at when the original post was published and what I'd been reading at the moment, I should've known I was doomed for failure. It is just all audiobooks and E.L. Konigsburg children's books for a few weeks and then a few new releases in series I follow and tons of YA.
Karen has the amazing ability to read like a charging army, it seems. She can and does plow through everything with seeming ease and I can only aspire to do so. I hope she can forgive me for being a complete failure in this instance, as she was unsurprisingly amazing at the challenge by reading EVERY ONE of our picks for her and reviewing them. I can only throw in the towel on this one and go back to my YA sci fi/fantasy Cybils nominees. I know when I've been beat.