I initially intended to do individual posts for each book after I finished it, but I kept putting it off. So, here are the books that finished off the month of June for me.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver: Well, Kingsolver’s writing style stretched this one out to two weeks for me to get through. That’s not a bad thing, I’m kind of glad I took my time to get through it because Kingsolver is such an adept writer. Her rich, dense, nuanced, prose is a feat of nature in itself. The book is about a flock of thousands of butterflies that descends upon a modern rural southern town. The characters were incredible, really. Our protagonist had obvious character flaws, especially at the beginning, which I think is a nice realistic touch. My favorite, though, was her son! What a cutie! One of the main themes is money and class divides. There’s one scene that I keep lingering on every time I go to the store – Dellarobia is shopping at a thrift store and finds herself finally able to buy necessities for her home. Sheets? Clothes for the kids? Done. The place is a miracle for her, but as she’s shopping she watches the college kids of the town doing their shopping. Hipsters, to be blunt. They’re buying the decades-old clothes to make a “statement,” but Dellarobia is at the thrift store because she can’t afford to shop anywhere else. The depiction of the Turnbow farm life, living season to season, paycheck to paycheck, is eloquent and tasteful. Kingsolver weaves this tale with great skill. The only problem I had with the book was the slow plot in some places.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris is about Tim and his family (a wife and daughter) coping with Tim’s unnamed disease that makes him walk. And not stop until the disease lets him. Then he’s so tired that he falls asleep on the spot. Basically, think Forrest Gump’s run across America, except sadder. Oh boy, is this a sad one. I mean, the disease uproots all of Tim’s life when it hits, and he doesn’t have a choice, so it’s to be expected. The characters all responded in very clear, motivated ways, so the book basically played itself out. It’s one of those books where you read the next paragraph and you’re like, “Why didn’t I guess that would happen?” Ferris is a very good writer. His most incredible passages, as one reviewer on the back cover of my copy remarked, occur in the last leg of the novel. At one point, a sentence had me flying through my kitchen looking for a pen to mark it before I turned the page. The Unnamed had me doing some serious soul-searching when I was reading it. After I finished it, I sat holding it to my stomach and just thought about “the soul” for a while. Ferris does a good job handling unanswerable questions and unnamed diseases. I highly recommend this one.
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith is one of those exemplary YA novels that reads with the richness of an adult novel. The character voices drew me in from the beginning, making me want to read more and more. It’s quite a lengthy book, but I read it in about 3 days. Once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. It’s about teens in Portland, Oregon who have always known they were… different. Betwixt is a coming-of-age story with a paranormal twist. That being said, Smith build up to the “reveal” incredibly. I was reading so fast to discover what was really going on with these kids, but I felt like the story that followed was lackluster in comparison. I was confused by a bunch of details, but read on, lodging them in the back of my mind, hoping to understand them later, like a lost punchline. Some of them, I did, or speculated about, but others were so lost. I still don’t really know what happened in the last half of the book. I couldn’t describe the plot points if I tried. Published in 2007 though, I recognize that this was one of the first pioneers of the YA paranormal genre, so it can’t have been easy to write. This is a very well written mediocre book.
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Scrapped Princess by Ichiro Sakaki This was a cute little Japanese episodic story. I read it in one sitting because it’s very short, but I really enjoyed it. I don’t have much experience with the Japanese-fiction-turned-anime genre, but this was a good one. It’s been a while since I read any pure fantasy books, and this world was very well built. The battle scenes were well written. The whole thing kind of reminded me of Avatar: the Last Airbender in theme. I don’t have much to say about it besides that right after I finished it, I went online to look for the rest of the series, but came back with no results. I am disappoint.
Rating: 3/5 Stars
This month I also read Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, but that one deserves a separate post because I want to address some of the problems I had with it.