Reading Roundup – The Buzz

This post (no comments about the length of time since the last one) is dedicated to the books I’ve read recently because there was buzz about them.  You know how they show up everywhere because some famous person has them in a “book club”?  Yeah, I usually don’t get pulled in by that, but a few times I did.  With varying results.

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Let’s head back to summer 2020 (oh, come on, you’re not that traumatized) to when I picked up this little book.  There’s really not a lot to say about this book because not much happens. A girl waitresses at a fancy restaurant. Then she writes some. Then she goes on dates with two different guys. Then she worries about her finances. And then she sells her book, ta-da! And all her problems are solved because her book is the best one ever written, and she can name her price, and everybody can shut up about how she should have given up and gotten a real job a long time ago. This book just felt like some writer’s fantasy.  It was not the least bit realistic or interesting for that matter.  Because it doesn’t happen that way.  It really doesn’t.  I only finished this one because it was short.  I don’t recommend it.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

The cover got me on this one.  It’s just so intense and melancholy and beautiful.  And it was everywhere on Goodreads, so I gave it a go.  It’s definitely not something I would normally pick up but I’m really glad I did.  A story about a teen who starts a sexual relationship with her teacher and then a decade later has to decide if she was a willing participant or a victim could easily go melodramatic.  I can see many a YA book going full A Fault in Our Stars on that, but this one didn’t.  I was pleasantly surprised to read about a fully rendered character dealing with a difficult situation.  I totally got the mixed emotions, the need for acceptance, the absolute vulnerability of that age.  And the questions about what would make you a victim.  What part did Vanessa actually play and what is her culpability?  It was written with grace and understanding and even though I’ve never been in any situation like that, I got it.  Kudos to Ms. Russell for a graceful book about a really tough subject.  I’d recommend it but give a caveat about teen sexual abuse.

The Holdout by Graham Moore

I went for this one because I love mysteries and crime novels and the occasional legal thriller.  This one was billed as all three because it’s about a jury who got sequestered on a super high-profile case ten years ago and are coming back together to do a documentary on the case.  But then one of them ends up dead.  The titular holdout is our narrator Maya who convinced her fellow jurors that the defendant was not guilty.  We go back and forth between the past and present as Maya tries to clear her name for the other juror’s murder.  I finished this book but just barely.  It started off all right but quickly went off the rails.  The premise stretched credulity to begin with, but by the end I was rolling my eyes.  I’ve read a lot of mysteries and this one just doesn’t hold up.  Sorry, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I hate a book with an agenda.  I’m really confused as to what was supposed to be the focus of this book.  We’ve got a lot of characters all vying for our attention, but no one who’s really our POV.  We’ve got the interplay between the privileged suburban family and the itinerate bohemian artist and her daughter who blow into town and cause some strife, but that storyline was really cliched.  And there’s the whole story of the white family trying to adopt a Chinese girl while her mother tries to win her back after abandoning her.  I can’t reconcile how these two storylines were supposed to fit together.  Were the Richardsons villains and Mia and Pearl heroes?  Were we supposed to pull for the Chinese woman to get her daughter back from the white couple because they would cut the baby off from her birth culture?  The author left these things open, but I feel like there was a “right” answer lurking beneath the surface.  Maybe I just didn’t get it, but this is one Reese’s Book Club pick I wish I had skipped.

So that’s what I have for the talked-about books I’ve dabbled in.  Since three out of four didn’t hit the spot it’s safe to say there probably won’t be many posts about buzzy books.  I’m guess I’m just too contrary for the mainstream.

Until next time (no, I don’t know when that will be, stop asking) happy reading, y’all!

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