Wow, what happened to May? I wish I could say I’ve been doing something extra exciting or productive in my absence, but well… Instead, here are some quick reviews of a few books I’ve read lately.
Sometimes I go to the library with no idea what I want, so I check out their recommending reading section or just wander up and down the aisles and pick up a couple of books they have prominently displayed. That’s how I ended up with The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Jarrettsville by Cornelia Nixon.
The Road is about a father and son’s struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic America. You don’t know what’s happened, but there are very few survivors in a country covered in ash and completely devoid of renewable resources. The father and his young travel on foot from town to town alone, scavenging for whatever remnants of civilization they can find to sustain them. Their situation seems hopeless yet they press on despite the constant threat from the elements and other survivors whose desperation has driven them to unspeakable acts. This book is depressing and at times deeply disturbing, yet the relationship between the father and son is very moving. I enjoyed the simple format of the book (there are no chapter divisions and sparse punctuation and dialogue), and found it a very effective way of conveying the bleakness of both the landscape and their situation. Warning: Language and sex are not issues in this story, but I was not kidding when I said this book was at times deeply disturbing. (Think cannibalism and graphic imagery, but don’t think too hard. Shudder.)
Slightly less depressing is Jarretsville, the tragic story of star-crossed lovers in a small town in post Civil War Maryland. The people of Jarretsville are still very much divided between north and south sentiments and loyalties, and naturally the couple come from these different backgrounds. The book begins with a murder and ends with a trial, with the middle a series of flashbacks, telling the story from the different characters’ points of view. While I didn’t love the book, I rather enjoyed it (or at the very least, didn’t feel like it was a complete waste of my time). I’m a fan of historical fiction, and in the age of Twilight mania, Jarretsville is one of those finely crafted stories that you feel the author deserves to have read by more than just a handful of people. Warning: Obviously, with the murder there is some violence, but nothing too bad, and while language is not an issue, some might be turned off by some moderate (I guess this depends on how you define it!) sexual situations.
I had Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher on hold at the library for several weeks after reading this review from my sister. (I recommend reading her review because I’m certain it is much, much better than what I will write, but here’s the gist of the story.) Thirteen Reasons Why is about a teenage girl who commits suicide, but before she does she records audio tapes detailing the 13 people/events she feels are most responsible for what led her to do it. She mails them to the first person before she kills herself, along with instructions that once they’ve finished the tapes, they need to send them to the next person on the list. The story is told from the point of view of the 8th or 9th person to get the tapes, alternating with her point of view as told through the audio tapes. Again, a depressing story, but I had a really hard time putting it down, and appreciated the thought-provoking nature of the story. We never really know what kind of impact our actions have on others, and how much harm can be done with or without intent. I found the end a little contrived, but I understood the author’s attempt to inject a little hope or some kind of good out of tragedy/lesson learned moment. Warning: Some occasional mild (and maybe an instance or two of stronger–I can’t really remember) language and a few strong, but not overly explicit (again, depending on how you define it) sexual (including rape) scenes.
Each of these books are around 300 pages or less and are fairly quick reads, even with the heavy subject matter. If you’re in the mood for something a little darker, I think these will do.
I’m currently working on The Manchurian Candidate, recommended by Madhousewife. I’m a little over halfway through and have had a hard time getting into it. I suspect I’m just about to the point where it starts getting really good, so I’m going to stick with it. Up next is book five of Fablehaven, the YA fantasy series by Brandon Mull. I’m too lazy to do another review, but I will say that these are rather enjoyable fantasy books for younger and older audiences. If your kids (or you) enjoyed the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (another one I’m too lazy to review), they would probably like this one as well.
What’s on your summer reading list? Do you have anything to recommend?