I did post an individual review of my favorite book in November (actually my favorite book I read this year), Tell the Wolves I’m Home, but I managed to complete quite a few more novels. Here’s a wrap-up of what I read in November.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (audio)
My sons and I have been listening to the Jim Dale audio versions of the Harry Potter series and this one did not disappoint us. I love how Rowling tackles the trials and tribulations of a boy growing up. Of course Harry’s world is fantastic and dangerous and full of wizards and magic, but at its core, this entire series is a coming-of-age saga. The four of us experience the books each in our own way. That’s an achievement in itself – the fact that my sons want to sit in the car just to listen to more is astonishing.
“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
Gold by Chris Cleave
I was so eager to read Cleave’s follow-up to Little Bee that it’s no wonder I was slightly disappointed. I loved the high stakes world of Olympic cyclists and I have to say that Cleave really understands how to write broken, wounded women, but I was never 100% invested in either of the protagonists. Gripping while it lasted, but didn’t stay with me long.
“Love wasn’t supposed to require the constant reassurance. But then again, love wasn’t supposed to sit watching its own reflection in a dead TV while temptation rode a blazing path to glory.”
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen (audio)
Listening to Quindlen read her own essays was an easy pleasure. I admit there were moments when I felt “too young” to totally identify with her, but how can I complain about a book that makes me feel too young? Seriously though, I loved the prompt to think about where I am in my life — both what’s behind me and what’s ahead. Quindlen has a remarkable way of bringing me in tune with myself. There are no huge revelations of life-changers in this collection, just an interesting collection of thoughts from a very strong writer, woman and mother. I’m a little jealous.
“One of the useful things about age is realizing conventional wisdom is often simply inertia with a candy coating of conformity.”
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I almost feel bad about how much I liked this coming-of-age novel because it’s all so obvious and melodramatic, but I loved it. I fell right into this dysfunctional world of overwrought and seriously damaged teenagers and didn’t want to come out. Nothing subtle about Chbosky’s writing, but I didn’t expect anything else from YA. What he did successfully was capture that very particular moment in teenage-dom when you are both cynical and naïve.
“I guess what I’m saying is it all feels familiar. But it’s not mine to be familiar about. I just know another kid has felt this…all the books you’ve read have been read by other people. The songs you love have been heard by other people. The girl that’s pretty to you is pretty to other people. You know that if you looked at these facts when you were happy, you would feel great because you are describing “unity.””
Taft by Ann Patchett
Definitely not my favorite Patchett. As I expected she sets an incredible scene (in this case Memphis) and gives the readers a multitude of interesting characters, both black and white, trying to balance life’s joys and challenges. There are peaks of drama and a whole lot of internal monologues. All typical Patchett stuff. But this story, this setting, these characters never really captured my interest. Looking back on the body of her fiction work, I can say that her books just keep getting better and better.
“As a state, Tennessee was nearly as screwed up as Texas, in that a man’s allegiance wasn’t to the whole state, just that little part he comes from. People got stuck in the mountains. But in Memphis there’s a river running through the middle of things. It takes people out, brings other ones in. That’s why mountain people kept to themselves and delta people make love in alleyways.”
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver returns to the citizens of rural Appalachia, which she writes so well. Still socially responsible (and even a little preachy at times) she still drew me in to Dellarobia’s world. From the very beginning with its description of a flame-haired woman ready to throw away her life for a moment of rapture, I was hooked. Dellarobia’s natural intelligence and wit, combined with her desire for something more out of life, was a winning combination. Add to that a thought-provoking treatment of the global warming crisis, and I had a winning book.
“…and understood that he had become himself, in the presence of his wife. With the sense of a great weight settling, she recognized marriage. Not the precarious risk she’d balanced for years against forbidden fruits, something easily lost in a brittle moment by flying away or jumping a train to ride off on someone else’s steam. She was not about to lose it. She’d never had it.”