The August Burlesque Press Reading Challenge Update by Jeni Stewart

Greetings all!  I hope your summer is lovely, and has provided a lot fo opportunities to make headway on your reading goals.  For myself, I have managed to keep on track, I think, despite starting a new job and working on getting my mother moved in to an assisted living complex.  Its been busy here in the hills of Tennessee, but just in case you’re looking for some reading inspiration, I thought I’d share some of my recent reads.  You can also check out my last reading challenge update here.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – This summer abounds with important holiday remembrances of both World War I and World War II, so I guess it’s no surprise that I read two books, back to back, actually, set during WWII, in Paris.  The first was Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Francine Prose’s latest, which is discussed in my last update.  These two books are very different, and each are moving in their own way.  They’re very different books – Prose’s deals with the edges of society, Doerr’s with a father and daughter in France, and a young boy who is given no choice but to join the Hitler youth.  The book reads quickly (though I found it started somewhat slowly), and has some fantastical leanings.  I definitely recommend checking this one out – the prose is lovely.

All The Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry – This book is YA, set in what I believe is supposed to be a fantastical version of a pre-revolutionary war village.  The main character has a strong narrative voice, and this is another very quick read.  The main character disappears and returns home with her tongue cut out, and no ability to tell anyone where she’s been. She has a love interest she feels is out of reach, and, indeed, her own mother seems embarassed and resentful of the fact she returned.  Couple that with a mystery – for this girl was not the only one to go missing, and you have a pretty engaging read even if it does make some predictable choices. Of course, by the end she finds her voice, both literally and figuratively, and while this book definitely has its darker elements, it’s a good, quick, read in bed with the light on well past bedtime book for the summer.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – This book has been getting a lot of praise this summer, and it is definitely worth a read.  The book manages to be both suspenseful and also a deeply involved character read.  Not a lot happens, but we get to know the family really, really well.  Most of the story is set in the past, before the tumultuous opening of the daughter of the family going missing (which, apparently, is a new trope as I feel half of the books I’ve read this year involve a missing teenage girl).  We find out in the very beginning that the daughter has died, but we spend the rest of the book finding out how the family ended up at this sad juncture.  The characters make choices that are in many ways predictable, but still, I also read this book quickly.  It has some elegant, stunning sentences.  While I really prefer a bit more plot and forward motion I recommend this read for the beauty of the prose.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan – this book is silly and funny, and I enjoyed it more than I probably should have.  It details the romantic foibles of several Asian billionaires.  Its over the top, but purposely so.  High literary art it is not, and while I have some issues with the way the plot is tied up at the end, I recommend this as a great travel/beach read.  Beware though – this book talks about food a lot, and it made me hungry.  It also made me keen to visit a market in Singapore so I could EAT IT ALL.

The Bees by Laline Paul – this book is far and away one of the most unusual books I’ve read, maybe ever.  It’s getting a lot of attention in the UK, and I can see why.  It was described as a cross between The Hunger Games and insert-coming-of-age novel here.  I see shades of The Handmaid’s Tale as well as Animal Farm, of course.  It’s a fascinating read.  Its set in a beehive and told from the perspective of a worker/sanitation bee on the eve of the collapse of the hive.  While I think bits of it are brilliant, and other bits less so, I have a ton of admiration for the author tackling this kind of tale and highly, highly recommend checking this book out.  It reads like a classic in the making.

The Fever by Megan Abbott – This one almost needs no introduction its been getting so much attention lately.  Still, this suspenseful tale of a group of girls afflicted with a mysterious illness, and both the town’s and the girls attempt to figure it out, and deal with it, is a fabulous summer read.  Not only that, but this book has some fascinating lines, and what seems to me, at least, a spot-on portrayal of teeneage girls, caught between childhood and fantasy, and adulthood and responsibility.

Friendship by Emily Gould – This book bothers me, and not in a good way.  It seems to me that Gould is making the case that we aren’t adults, or complete, or hell, even likable, until we have achieved financial stability, and, indeed, had children.  I disagree.  That said, one of the things that caught me up about this book was how she really seems to capture some of the diffidence, entitlement, and vulnerability this particular millennial generation suffers.  There were some lines of dialogue that grated, but there were also some that felt, ahem, familiar. And if nothing else, the book is short.  It does, in fact, seem like only 2/3 of a book, so you can read it quickly. I don’t necessarily recommend this book, but if you do read it, and you’re into this sort of thing, let’s get a bottle of wine and discuss it eh?

So that’s where I’m at right now.  At last count I’d read 25/50 books.  Adding these 7 in I’m at 32 so far this year.  At last count my #readwomen2014 count was 19 women to 4 men.  Adding in these books I’ve got 24 female authors to 6 male authors.  So I guess looking this over if I can continue to read a book a week, or so, as planned I’m on track to finish and meet my goal by the end of the year.  How about you?  What have you been reading and are you keeping track and/or setting goals?

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