Jan. 27th, 2017

Once again it's Friday and I have no plans. But I do have 5 more books under my belt!

My rating system:
10 – life-changing, an all-time favorite
5 - average
1 – terrible, why did I finish it?

A Study of Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas – This was a new twist on Sherlock Holmes, staring a female Holmes (and a female Watson). Reading it, I felt like I do with many mysteries – I tried to catch clues and figure it out, but I would’ve needed to make a chart of every detail presented in order to solve it. (Which makes me think maybe I shouldn’t read mysteries? I mean if I’m not going to try to figure it all out, why bother?) And a nitpick: the start of the novel is very confusing with lots of characters and scenarios thrown at you and it doesn’t start to jell at all for a while; the author doesn’t give us an easy entry into her characters’ world. But still, it was pretty engaging. Grade: 5

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Stein – This is a memoir in the format of a series of essays, by a stand-up comedian who has written for a lot of shows like SNL. Despite her impressive resume, I’d never heard of her so my initial impression of the book was based off the book’s jacket, in which the author is described as a tomboy who grew up to become a “tom man.” I felt I got a bit of “bait and switch” from that, because pretty soon after adulthood hits, we hear of Stein buying designer dresses, getting her pubes waxed, going to really heavy-duty exercise classes specifically to chisel her butt (like not to improve her health; she tells us she’s only going there to get her butt to look good), and shopping at Victoria’s Secret. So JK on the “tom man” thing then? (I even googled pictures of her and she is beautiful. It’s so sad that she didn’t or doesn’t think she is. Our world is crazy, as are our standards of beauty). So I was a bit put off by all that, but then I reminded myself to give Stein a break. Maybe whoever wrote the jacket got carried away. She’s got a lot of funny and insightful moments in here too; I even LOL-ed a few times. She had a great essay on porn, as she feels similar how I do about it (she likes some of it, but realizes that a lot of it degrades women and has become so commonplace, really impacting a lot of people’s sex lives). Grade: 7

The Linnet Bird by Linda Hollman – A nice work of historical fiction, set in 1830’s England. The protagonist is born poor and her mother dies when she’s young, leaving Linnet with an abusive stepfather. I have to admit I’ve read lots of novels staring similarly-situated young women, and as the story progressed I worried a few times that this would be your typical story where our helpless heroine is saved by a big, strong man. But the author, thankfully, had more in mind than this familiar storyline. Any time Linnet is saved it’s due to her own smarts. The author skillfully kept the plot moving rapidly and tossed in a few surprises. I really enjoyed it, and yet I should probably add that if it weren’t for these book reports, this is the type of book I’d likely forget that I’d ever read, in a year or less. Grade: 6

Breaking Night by Liz Murray – A memoir by a woman who was born into very hard circumstances (parents were both drug addicts, mother died young, they were often homeless). The book’s cover tells us “from homeless to Harvard”, and indeed Murray eventually finds an ‘alternative’ high school, graduates from it, and gets a scholarship to Harvard. Feeling down about humanity, I needed a good uplift and this book provides it. Once people at Murray’s alternative school and others heard about her circumstances, she is showered with gifts and help. So that was cool. If I wanted to nitpick, I’d say that the author paints herself as a bit too perfect as a kid – like she’s never mad at her mom for being a drug-addict who neglects her children, she is endlessly patient. Maybe that’s true, I don’t know, or maybe an editor succumbed to the temptation to make Murray seem a bit too good to be true. Regardless, I’m glad I read her book; it was – yeah – inspirational. Also, sounds like we need more high schools like hers! Gotta wonder how many others could succeed as she did if they found their way to a school like the one she found. Grade: 7

Heft by Liz Moore - I listened to this novel on audio, and it's about two men who have never met each other but whose lives are intertwined because of a woman. Arthur is lonely, housebound, and very "obese". Kel is a teenager whose mother was a student - and later friend - of Arthur's; Kel's mother has become an alcoholic. I have to say that Kel wasn’t credible to me as a character – he’s just too sensitive, too sweet, too caring of his mother without ever being angry at her. He's also boring - his segments go on for too long and I found myself saying "Move it along, Kel!" a few times. As for Arthur, I was worried the author would make him into a caricature of a fat person, but she didn't; he actually felt like a fully-realized and sympathetic person. I'd say the book was good enough, though I wish it had been mainly about Arthur. Grade: 4

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