Book Twentytwo: Half Empty

Half Empty, David Rakoff

Oh David Rakoff. How the world will miss you. I'm not sure if it's that this was less funny than his past books, or that my ability to laugh while reading it was tainted by the fact that he just passed away. But really, laughs aren't the main draw here anyway. There's some lovely writing, some fascinating topics, and some real heartfelt human stuff.

Book Twentyone: The Night Circus

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

Ugh. This stunk. I was almost enjoying it, and then about half way through I just felt exhausted by this book. When I finished it I was relieved, like, thank God I'm done with that! And that's when I realized how angry it made me. Such lazy, lazy writing. A plot that makes no sense, with no suspense, and cardboard characters with essentially nothing at stake. And that's too bad, because it could have been so good. It takes a truly dismal writer to make some wonderful things like magic and circuses the insanely tedious.

Book Twenty: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is one of my favorite comedy writers. So funny, so silly. And even though this book wasn't huge on laughs, I loved that it felt like Mindy was talking to me like I was her best friend. I'll take more of that any day.

Book Nineteen: I'd Know You Anywhere

I'd Know You Anywhere, Laura Lippman

I really do adore Laura Lippman, but looking back on this book a month or so after finishing it I can hardly remember much about it. It felt like there was supposed to be some big twist or reveal, but nothing terribly interesting happens, despite the great plot set-up.

Book Eighteen: Mister Skylight

Mister Skylight, Ed Skoog

Our book club picked this book by a local poet for July. I do like some poetry. And there were a few poems in here that were really terrific with some lovely wordplay and beautiful imagery. But some were just too dense for me. It felt like they were loaded with personal references or inside jokes and I felt left out of the party.

Book Seventeen: Aunt Dimity's Death

Aunt Dimity's Death, Nancy Atherton

An iPhone Kindle read. I love this kind of breezy, silly read, and I even downloaded the second in the series, but strangely that one hasn't captured my interest so much as this one.

Book Sixteen: The Family Fang

Ack! Once again I've neglected to write about what I've read as soon as I finished, and once again I can't remember any of the books. This list seems about right, and yet I have a weird feeling I'm forgetting something. I only half finished Isabel Allende's Paula, but I won't include that because there's a chance I'll come back to it at some point.

(And, believe it or not, it's been, like, two months since I wrote that above paragraph and I still haven't written about these silly books. Blargh.)

The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson

I was worried that this would be too cute, since the premise is a bit…. well, cute. Two performance artists involve their kids in their pieces, and the kids (obviously) grow up to resent their parents for it. The books flashes back and forth between the performance art stunts when they were younger and the very dysfunctional lives of the kids now. Child A (Annie) is a relatively successful actress whose life and career have suddenly jumped the rails and Child B (Buster [oh, and how can any contemporary dysfunctional character be named Buster without me picturing them as Tony Hale in Arrested Development?]) is a struggling writer who, in desperation, gets caught up in a daredevil-type moment with disastrous results. Annie and Buster both end up living back home with their parents and then serious things happen.

It is terribly funny. But I was honestly surprised at how touching it was. I had expected to read it wish a kind of cynical distance, but it drew me in and made me feel all kinds of things for these people. I'm sure if one was tired of dysfunctional families this might not be the best choice, but then again, for me it went beyond that and became something really special.