Winter-ish Reading Round-Up

Winter-ish Reading Round-Upfeatured

It’s been awhile, huh? Between not wanting to throw up a post on Thanksgiving and then taking three weeks off from blogging over Christmas/New Year’s…well, luckily for you, I’ve still been carefully keeping track of all the books I’ve read over the past 2.5 months. Here goes…

Winter-ish Reading Round-Up {the ponytail diaries}

The New World by Andrew Motion

The New World

I don’t know about this one. It certainly had an interesting premise and the writing was excellent — really beautiful, thoughtful prose. But…

Well, I wish I’d known before picking it up that it was actually the second book in what I assume will be a trilogy. The entire story arc is sort of a sequel to Treasure Island, in which Jim Hawkins’ son, also named Jim (which is only a tiny bit confusing), and Long John Silver’s half-black daughter, Natty, steal (older) Jim’s map to/of Treasure Island and somehow get a ship and crew and sail across the Atlantic to reclaim the silver that Jim and Long John Silver left there.

That all happens in the first book by Andrew Motion, titled Silver. That book, I guess, ends with their ship getting caught in a storm and wrecking off the coast of what I think would now be Texas. The New World picks up there.

Now, plot-wise, skipping Silver was no big deal. This is its own adventure and they drop enough hints about what happened in the first book that I didn’t feel totally lost.

Character-wise, though, I felt like I was missing something major by not reading Silver. Mainly, I didn’t get Natty’s character, or her and Jim’s relationship, at all. She comes off as this enigmatic, frustrating, uncaring bitch, really, who shows just enough empathy and kindness to keep Jim on the hook. He’s completely devoted to her and while she might like him or maybe even love him a little, her number one goal seems to be to show him that she doesn’t need him like he apparently needs her.

I don’t know if her character was explained better earlier, or if knowing more about what they went through would help me make sense of her, but their interactions just keep distracting me and keeping me from enjoying the rest of the novel. And, unfortunately, it’s not like the story was interesting or gripping enough to make me really, really want to read Silver, so I don’t know if my questions will ever be answered.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me?

Seriously, who doesn’t love Mindy Kaling? I read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me in one day (on two plane flights). Flew through it like that. This one, at least the first half or so, wasn’t as “laugh out loud funny” as her first, but that might’ve been the semi-distracted mood I was in while reading it (in the car on the way home from my grandparents’ house after Thanksgiving). The nights when I read it in bed, I kept waking up my husband with my snorts of laughter.

While Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me dealt a lot with her childhood and early life in TV, Why Not Me? was written and thus deals with her life after she became successful, and I have to say, I love how honest she is about that. I read one review saying that sometimes Mindy comes across as “arrogant” but I didn’t get that at all — she’s just saying “Hey, I’ve worked my ass off on this and I’m proud of it.” I love that she touches on the discussion about her weight and body and admits that knowing she’s now seen as a role model is sometimes the only reason she makes certain choices. I loved the “excerpt” from the fictional “Mindy as Latin teacher as Dalton in New York” and the account of the semi-relationship that led to her meeting the president. And the last essay should be required reading for young girls — and everyone, really.

Don’t skip this one.

After You by Jojo Moyes

After You

SO. GOOD. After literally tearing through Me Before You, I couldn’t wait to read After You. Picking up several months after the end of Me Before You, we get to see what Louisa has been doing with herself. Which…isn’t much. She’s moved to London, has her own flat (gotten out of that stifling environment in her parents’ house, at least), but if anything, she’s regressed back from where she was at the end of Me Before You. She’s bored and frustrated and, more than anything, afraid — of the person she had become, of the person she’s slipping back into, of failing and moving back home, of confronting her past with Will, of squandering her chance to live, of love. Moyes is brilliant is creating a character who makes me want to comfort and slap at the same time. Like “oh, honey, I know this is so hard for you” and “come on girl, snap out of it, everything isn’t lost.”

I’ll stop with the plot analysis there and just say that, while not quite as good as Me Before YouAfter You is still an excellent and enjoyable read. One thing I really loved — in both books — was that there were really multiple plotlines that were really only related in that they were all happening to Louisa. It seemed a much more real portrait of a life than a story with one main driving plot and secondary plots that only serve to support it. If anything, I still was left wanting more — I thought the ending came a little fast and, well, I want a third book that continues to follow Louisa on her next adventures (which are bound to be entertaining).

The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith

The Silkworm

Okay, guys, I’m officially into this series. I can’t wait to get my hands on the third book, Career of Evil, and I’m even trying to figure out some other equally good mysteries/detective novels/whodunnits to check out in the meantime (any suggestions??).

Anyway, in The Silkworm, Cormoran Strike and his sidekick/assistant, Robin, get swept up in what starts as a missing person case and turns into a grisly, twisted murder investigation (really grisly — if you’re sensitive to graphic descriptions you might not like parts of this). Once again, I’m not one of those readers who can figure out the culprit halfway through and I was left guessing through every chapter. I heard from others that it was supposedly really easy to figure out the ending early in this one. Maybe if I start reading more detective novels I’ll get better at it…

But I’m hooked. Rowling is such a master at characters that I feel like even if I could guess the murderer, I’d still enjoy reading this series.

Delancey, by Molly Wizenberg

Delancey

So, this was featured on the Girl Next Door podcast awhile back, and even though I’d never heard of the author or her blog or anything, they made it sound so interesting that I was compelled to order it.

Delancey is a memoir from Molly Wizenberg, writer of the blog Orangette (which I just started reading a little after finishing the book) about the time her husband decided to open a pizza restaurant (Delancey) in Seattle. As memoirs go, it was pretty light and breezy, but kinda perfect for reading right after New Year’s/while recovering from a cold. I really liked the peak into the restaurant industry from a total newbie’s perspective, and I almost wish she had gone more into those details — like, how did they approach vendors and suppliers? How did they work out those contracts? What goes into perfecting recipes (she talked a lot about her husband’s quest to make the perfect pizza dough, and a little about how they decided what pizzas to serve, but I wish there was more discussion about how they came up with different seasonal menus)? (I kinda wish there were more photos too.)

Overall, it was very enjoyable. Not the deepest or hardest-hitting memoir, but an especially good read for anyone who’s ever thought about opening a restaurant.

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven

By now, I’m guessing if you haven’t read this book, it’s because you’ve got some sort of post-apocalyptic-novel fatigue. But GUYS. You have to read this book. While reading it, I seriously could not wait until it was time to go to bed so I could read a few chapters. Towards the end, I was grabbing it to read while eating breakfast. I gave myself a long lunch break to finish it when I only had twenty pages to go. I was so eager to see what was going to happen while also not wanting it to end.

Phew. Okay. Station Eleven takes us to several different points in time, starting with the death of an actor while performing King Lear on what turns out to be the night when all hell broke loose — a crazy contagious, super deadly flu strain starts hitting several major cities and within a week, something like 90% of Earth’s population is dead. It jumps 20 years in the future to follow a band of musicians and actors who travel around to different towns and settlements performing classical concerts and Shakespeare plays. I loved setting a good deal of the action in a time when many people alive still remember life before, some vividly, some vaguely, depending on their age when it happened (the main character in these parts, a girl who was about 8 when the flu struck, has hazy memories about, say, airplanes or TV but can no longer remember her parents’ faces). But for the younger people, the kids and teens, this world is all they know, but there’s still remnants of the world that used to be and plenty of people to tell them about it. It’s a unique point in time for post-apocalyptic novels and I loved it.

And the language. Oh, the language. It’s so beautiful.

And now? Now I’m sloooooowly making my way through Moby Dick. So far, it’s actually pretty good. As far as 19th-century novels go, it’s very readable, but it’s still…well, a slog. Unlike Station Eleven, I have to talk myself into picking it up each night, but when I do, I usually manage to get into it.

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  • That Delancey sounds pretty interesting. Had to put it on my Amazon wish list so when I go buying a few new Kindle books, I know where to go.

    • My Amazon wish list is never-ending. 🙂 Let me know what you think if you read it.