So June was another hardcore month for reading... For reasons personal and professional, I am just blowing through books at the moment. And good ones too. What a pleasure. That said, I am disappointed that I came so close to hitting a straight 'The...' title run and just missed. Damn you, Temeraire, ruining everything.
- The Shore - Sara Taylor: I first heard this book pitched as Margaret Atwood meets David Mitchell meets Carson McCullers which is exactly my kind of catnip. I do understand those points of reference - interconnecting, nested stories; the South; a certain thick, stickiness; women; a not-too-distant sexual apocalypse - but, for me, this debut didn't really stand up to those comparisons. I mean, it's not a bad book but those are great writers and very very few people can shine next to them. What I did like about this book was its fixation on the violence that dominates so many women's lives, across time, ages and classes. I'll be interested to see what Taylor does next.
- The Country of Ice Cream Star - Sandra Newman: This novel was a trip and I loved it. It is fat and plotty and weird and, for approximately three pages, I thought I might struggle to get into the strong idiom but then it wrapped me up and warped my brain. Ice Cream Fifteen Star, the book's heroine, is a fifteen year old girl who ends up leading her tribe of teenage comrades on a quest across an America ravaged by a biological apocalypse. Society and language have broken down and adults are dead or absent. Ice Cream is tough and violent and brave and I love her. This kind of story isn't for everyone but if anything about it appeals I would highly recommend giving it a shot.
- The Lion's Daughter - Loretta Chase: I was inspired to pick up this romance novel by Pop Culture Happy Hour's excellent romance special. After many years of reading fic, I struggle to find het/print capital-R romance that really lives up to my expectations but Linda, Barrie, Petra and Sarah were so enthusiastic and knowledgeable and clearly having such a good time on the podcast that I felt inspired to follow one of their recommendations. And it was... fine. The last 25% lost some momentum and I found the relentless references to the heroine's tiny childlikeness rather frustrating but at no point did it actually make me cross! Which isn't nothing! I will continue to occasionally dabble in Romance but, I suspect, in its mainstream form, it is a genre that is lost to me.
- The Girls from Corona del Mar - Rufi Thorpe: This book came out in paperback a few weeks ago and it has been getting a lot of buzz online and in the bookish spaces where I linger. I didn't love it as much as some readers, I found the narrative perspective frustrating especially (I wanted to be present with the girls as teenagers and twenty-somethings - I found the thirty-something narrator's tone a little smug and a little distancing), but I did like its depiction of the complexities of (female) friendship. You can love a friend even when you don't like them; your lives can accidentally and intentionally diverge and that doesn't erase your past; it is human to fail; stereotyping yourself and others is unhealthy and unhelpful. Life is hard and nasty and awful sometimes.
- Temeraire (His Majesty's Dragon) - Naomi Novik: The Napoleonic Wars but with dragons! Either that sounds like fun to you or it doesn't. The first of Novik's popular series was slighter than I was expecting but nimble and well executed and pleasant. I do love a talking dragon and the dragons are the stand-out characters here. I'm probably not going to make my way through the next seven books in the series (#9 is due out next year) but I would recommend them, especially to slightly younger readers. I'm going to try and grab her new stand-alone, Uprooted, which a lot of people I like are enjoying at the moment.
- The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer: I was surprised to Google this and find out that it was only published in 2013. It felt like it had been on my To Read List for longer. It has certainly been on my bedside table for six months since I pinched my parent's copy... This novel follows the fortunes of six teenagers who meet at a summer camp for creative youfs in the 1970s. It is very brilliant and insightful. Wolitzer's friends must live in fear of her knowing every bad, unkind thought that has ever crossed their minds. The book rings amazingly human and true and there is something reassuring in that even when everyone is a little bit awful. For more and more coherent details, Roxane Gay wrote a great and enthusiastic review.
- The Twelve Tribes of Hattie - Ayana Mathis: Is there ever a not-devastating time to read about black lives in America? This is an interesting fictional counterpart to a non-fiction book I'm reading at the moment. Hattie flees Georgia for Philadelphia in the 1920s but never really finds the better life that she craved. She has a thousand children who exhaust her and a husband who disappoints her. The first chapter is from Hattie's perspective and the subsequent chapters follow various children and, eventually, a grandchild. This structure allows the book to cover a lot of Issues but it does make it difficult for the reader to really connect with the characters. Still, an interesting read.