booksI almost entitled this post “Duds and Studs” because I’ve read some books that I thought were duds and then I read my first Nicholas Sparks book, about a stud of course (I’ve seen enough movies to know the genre). But then I kept adding more books to this post that didn’t fit into either category.  So, here’s a list of eclectic books that I’ve read in the past month or so.

I’ll start with Nicholas’ stud.

The Longest Ride (Sparks) – This is my first Sparks’ novel.  I read and enjoyed Six Weeks with My Brother, Sparks’ touching personal memoir, many years ago, but that’s it.  The Longest Ride alternates between the story of an older man who is trapped in a car after swerving off an icy road and reminiscing about his past true love, and a budding romance between a sorority girl and a bull-riding, testosterone-laden rancher (the stud).

As I read, I wondered how the stories would end up intertwining.  It seemed obvious that the older man had money and the rancher was in desperate need of money and that’s probably how the two stories would intersect.  About fifty pages before the stories merged, I realized that I had heard this plot line before.  Probably, it’s because Sparks’ stories are famous.  But I think it might have even been a sermon illustration!  It’s a great story.

The ending could have been groan-worthy but it worked. It was actually a great ending.  I haven’t ever tried romance-writing, but I’m sure it’s hard to do without devolving into cheesiness.  So, bravo to Sparks.

Then two duds …

Marco Polo Didn’t Go There (Potts) – I really enjoyed Potts’ other book, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel.  I was looking forward to reading about his travelling adventures and short stories he had published.  This book was disappointing.  It just wasn’t that interesting to me. It came across as egotistical and immature.  The book opens with Potts trying to sneak onto a movie set.  It makes for an interesting plot to some extent, but also seemed ultimately like a stupid thing to do.  There’s a lot of other antics in the book that came across as juvenile as well.

Catch-22 (Heller) – I think I’m just not into this genre: slow-moving novels about soldiers who philosophize about life.  Some sections were interesting and I enjoyed the writing to some extent, but the subject matter and slowness of this book assured that it won’t be my favorite.  It reminded me to some degree of Slaughterhouse-Five, which I read earlier this year.  That’s enough hyphenated books about soldiers for me, for a while.

And then some more random books …

We Were Liars (Lockhart) – I saw this novel was “trending” on Goodreads and picked it up.  Yes, I fell for that!!  Anyway, the opening pages of this book whisked me away into another world. I really enjoyed the writing. It’s easy and fun but also rich and evocative.  The kids in the story are spoiled, rich brats. So that was annoying. The teenage love-story angst was hard to bear at times, too.  But overall this book was a fun, quick read.  There is a big plot twist at the end that I didn’t see coming and, to some degree, doesn’t make sense. If you have read this book, I’d love to know what you think.

The Outermost House (Beston) – I grew up near the ocean and I love stories set by the seaside that involve observations of the surrounding nature, and personal discovery. This book had some beautiful observations, but I vacillated between enjoying the descriptions and feeling they were too factual.  Like and engineer was making lists, or something.  Sorry if you’re an engineer!  I think you’re probably great.  Just saying …

Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son (LaMott) – Ann LaMott is a great writer. This memoir wasn’t my favorite but she definitely has a knack for describing scenes and emotional situations.  This book is about the turmoil of the first year of her grandson’s life, with her young son dealing with unexpected fatherhood and Ann trying to hold everything together.

Food: A Love Story (Gaffigan) – I really loved reading Dad is Fat by Gaffigan last year.  In fact, because it’s so humorous and because the logistics of having five kids and living in a two-bedroom, four-story walkup in New York City is so intriguing to me, it might have been one of my most-recommended books last year.  So I was happy to pick up Food: A Love Story and add something funny to my reading material.  Gaffigan makes fun of regional food, health food, and mostly himself.  I enjoyed this reading diversion.


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