14 May 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: A Mixed Reading Week

Books to Read in MayIt was another slow reading week for me, but this time it was for a good reason. I took some time off work to visit my mother and to plan her 90th birthday celebration (coming up soon) with one of my brothers.

The long weekend was filled with fun and chores: getting my mother's patio ready for summer, running errands, doing minor house repairs, cooking, eating, and gabbing.

My brother and I organized a holiday lunch for Mother's Day, and it was wonderful to see my cousins and niece and nephew, and it's always great to catch up on everyone's life. I'm writing this on Sunday afternoon, and my mom and I are looking forward to a quiet evening and watching the first episode of the new Little Women series.

What I Read Last Week

Review of Rachel Kushner's The Mars RoomMars Room by Rachel Kushner (Scribner, May 1): I had mixed feelings about this much-buzzed novel about a twenty-something woman, Romy, who is sentenced to two life terms (plus six years) after being convicted of killing a stalker. The women inmates' stories and the descriptions of prison culture and the California justice system, especially for the poor and resourceless, are vivid and heartbreaking. There were no real surprises here (see: Orange Is the New Black), and Kusher pulls no punches when portraying life with no backup or safety net. I had two issues with the book. First, Kushner periodically turns away from Romy to concentrate on several men, including a prison teacher and a dirty cop. Not all of the tangents tied back to the main plot, and thus I found them distracting. Second, is the ending. I won’t spoil the novel, but the last few pages were unsatisfying and too inconclusive. I don’t know what I was expecting to happen, but it wasn’t what I was given. The Mars Room has been getting quite a bit of attention, so you may want to check it out for yourself. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Simon & Schuster Audio; 9 hr, 41 min), read by the author, for a freelance assignment. While there was nothing really wrong with Rachel Kushner's delivery, I didn't totally buy into her performance. Details will be available through AudioFile magazine.

Review of Judy Blundell's The High SeasonThe High Season by Judy Blundell (Random House, May 22): Based on the publisher's summary, I expected The High Season to be a light beach read with some thriller elements. I was partly wrong. Set on the North Fork (the un-Hampshires) of Long Island, the novel focuses on the transforming summer of Ruthie and Jemma, a mother–daughter pair who live in a beautiful beach house, which they can afford only by renting it out to vacationers from Memorial Day to Labor Day. After a wealthy young widow moves into the house, the threads of Ruthie and Jemma’s life begin to unravel. Coincidence? This is a surprisingly complex novel about changing culture, the infiltration of the Instagramable set into a small community, the dark undercurrent of the art world, coming of age (for Jemma), and forced and welcome new beginnings (for the adults and for the town). I found quite a lot to love here, such as a cast of fully realized, believable characters facing real-life situations and a diverse range of relationship and family issues. The High Season will bring depth and thought to your summer reading list; you won't want to miss it. I haven't read any of Blundell's YA fiction, but I now plan to explore her entire back list. (Print review copy provided by the publisher.)


rhapsodyinbooks 5/14/18, 7:00 AM  

The Mars Room is HUGELY hyped. I have often found however that amount of hype doesn't necessarily correspond with how good a book is....

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 5/14/18, 7:24 AM  

Your thoughts on Mars Room are similar to what I've been hearing...I'm going to skip it now.

And maybe I should've tried harder with High Season...I DNF'd at 20% b/c all the museum board politics were annoying me.

Susie | Novel Visits 5/14/18, 9:02 AM  

I felt exactly the same way you did about The Mars Room. For me it was a disappointment and had too many side elements and not enough about Romy.

High Season sounds really good. I'm adding it to my ever growing "summer" list. (I wonder if the audio version would be good?)

Laurel-Rain Snow 5/14/18, 10:12 AM  

I also watched the first episode of Little Women...I thoroughly enjoyed it and smiled at the parts that reminded me of the book (Amy's limes, Jo's haircut).

The Mars Room looks good, but I would not like those digressions, either.

Thanks for sharing, and have a great week. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Kathy Martin 5/14/18, 11:40 AM  

Somehow, I've never heard of The Mars Room. It doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy. I have read some Blundell and will be looking for High Season though. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Katie Fitzgerald 5/14/18, 1:57 PM  

I'm curious about that Judy Blundell book. I remember really enjoying her YA book, What I Saw and How I Lied, and this sounds a bit different but really intriguing. I'll have to look for it at the library.

JoAnn 5/14/18, 3:47 PM  

Glad you had such a good weekend with your mom. Her upcoming 90this sure to be very special! I'll probably skip both of the books you mentioned. My reading pace has slowed slightly this year and I'm hoping to focus on my tbr shelves for the next several months.

Kay 5/14/18, 4:53 PM  

So happy you got to spend time with your mother and other family. A 90th birthday celebration sounds wonderful! Enjoy!

pussreboots 5/14/18, 5:19 PM  

Enjoy your day with your mother. My weekly update

Sue Jackson 5/14/18, 7:05 PM  

Oh, I've been hearing about both of these novels, so I appreciate the reviews! I considered getting The Mars Room for my mom because it was talked about at Booktopia last week. And I just read about The High Season yesterday and thought exactly what you said - I'm not usually into "beach reads" but I thought this sounded like it had more depth than usual.

Thanks for the heads up!


Book By Book

Nise' 5/14/18, 9:11 PM  

How exiting to be planning a 90th birthday for your mom! Loved Judy Blundell's YA books and will definitely check this one out.

Greg 5/15/18, 6:20 AM  

Sounds like a wonderful long weekend- glad it was a good one!! Both books sound great in different ways, but I'm kind of intrigued by the High Season. That one sounds quite good!

Daryl 5/22/18, 8:06 AM  

your weekend and upcoming celebration sound wonderful ... i now much check on this new Little Women series

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