It’s a first. I finished a book from Netgalley before its release date! Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan comes out tomorrow, May 9. I could do with a new J. Courtney Sullivan book every two years and so far I’ve gotten my wish. I read another of her books, Maine, in August of 2015 and before that her book Engagements in July of 2013. Quick summary…
“Nora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America… Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan—a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand. Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children… Estranged from her sister and cut off from the world, Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont. Until, after decades of silence, a sudden death forces Nora and Theresa to confront the choices they made so long ago. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers, Saints for All Occasions explores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together.”
Saints has multiple points of view and character narratives like her other two that I’ve read and I enjoy this immensely. Multiple POVs for the win y’all. However, Saints also has a past story and a present story which I don’t think the others did. She put the past in seamlessly with the present and it helped accelerate the story and explain the characters more. I loved that it took place in Boston, specifically South Boston and Dorchester, which I’m very familiar with. She talked about Sully’s on Castle Island and Morrissey Boulevard. It makes my heart pitter patter when places I’m familiar with are mentioned in books. I loved the characters. I also love that Sullivan’s books aren’t typically tied up with a bow at the end but still feel satisfying.
Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017 : a book set in two different time periods
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2017 : a book that is set within 100 miles of your location
I’ve been resisting this book since I put the galley on my Kindle in August of 2016 (thanks Netgalley!). Books with this amount of hype are never my go-to read. I let it play out while everyone talks about it so I can see if it’s really something I want to invest in. Most times it’s not and I hear everything I need to know through conversation with others. I resisted when Oprah made it her book club choice but could not resist again when it won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
So I read it. I heard it was gruesome, and parts of it were. But then a friend asked me if it was worse than A Little Life and I chuckled to myself. Y’all, nothing will ever be worse than A Little Life. Nothing.
The Underground Railroad follows Cora, a slave in Georgia on the Randall plantation, as she makes her way off the plantation and navigates her life after leaving. She escapes. She does. But what does she escape? Not slavery, that’s for sure. The book alludes to this depressing quality multiple times. She moves from one set of chains to another despite her relocation to the North. I enjoyed this new perspective on the slave narrative. Another friend was saying that most slave books end after they’ve escaped and that’s it. Everything is great once you’re off the plantation and in the North, right? Definitely not true, and I appreciate that this novel continues that story for us to see. I also appreciated that the mystic / surreal quality of the railroad was not overdone (in the book the underground railroad is a literal railroad underground). I was thinking to myself after finishing it that if you didn’t finish school or paid zero attention in history you might actually think this is how the underground railroad worked. It’s a book that should definitely be read but not necessarily one I would tell you to buy / borrow immediately.
Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge 2017 : a Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award winner
Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017 : a book with a red spine
Pachinko is a title I picked from the February choices of Book of the Month. Since Behind Her Eyes was such a hit I figured I should continue on with my others from that book box. I decided on Pachinko because the guest judge who chose this book is Alexander Chee. He of the Queen of the Night phenomenon. Now that I’ve finished Pachinko I find this unsurprising because it is a sweeping novel with multiple generations from one family growing and changing through the years and with the country. Chee’s novel reads much like Pachinko in detail and saga.
Sunja is the main character we meet first, a Korean who gets pregnant by a married man. She then marries a traveling preacher, Isak, who stopped at her mother’s boarding house and was nursed by them back to health. He is a great man. He wants kids and a wife and Sunja is in need of a man to keep her from ruin so it works out well. They move to Japan with the intent to go back to Korea someday. Spoiler alert : they never do. Their family is subjected to racial commentary throughout the whole book because Koreans are lesser in Japan. They are immigrants. Even though some of them get Japanese citizenship towards they end they’re still never considered Japanese, always Korean. Sunja and Isak meet family in Japan and have kids and the rest of the book follows their journey and the journey of those that come after.
Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge 2017 : an immigrant story
Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017 : a book about an immigrant or refugee
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2017 : read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color
I picked this book from the February choices of Book of the Month. I chose Behind Her Eyes because in an episode of the All the Books podcast Liberty Hardy, who reads for a living, said that even she had no idea where the ending was going. I thought to myself, Are you f*ing kidding?? Sign me up! Liberty did not disappoint. I had no idea what was happening through most of the book let alone guessing the ending. I read it with some old co-workers and I wish I would’ve known the ending was going to be so awesome because I would’ve made us all wait and read the last 20 pages together so we could see each others faces. It is that good.
Now that I said that I don’t know. Is it good or was I just thoroughly engrossed? I feel like it’s Gone Girl-ish in the way that all the characters aren’t really characters I want to root for. (I have some serious things to say about Gillian Flynn’s books here). They all do something bad and they are all more or less horrible people. But the plot is so enthralling. Also, the ending. Along with the warning from Liberty that no one will guess, it came with a BOTM bookmark that said, “You think you know how it ends? You’re wrong. I promise.” That’s just asking for it. I read the words so closely, which is very unlike me. I’m a big skimmer. But I wanted to catch all the possible clues. Still, I did not guess. You will not guess either. I promise.
Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge 2017 : a book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending
Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017 : a book with an unreliable narrator
I signed up for Book of the Month. As if I don’t have enough to read (rolls eyes). But I couldn’t help myself. There was a Groupon for three months at $19.99. That means I could get 3 brand new hardcover books for $6.66 a book! Are you kidding me?? How can a librarian book addict resist that? Spoiler alert : she can’t. If you haven’t heard of Book of the Month, this is how it works. Each month you pick one book from a group of 5 books. Those 5 books are chosen by guest judges who write a little blurb on why they chose it. If you just can’t decide on one, you can add two more to your box for $9.99 each. Which let’s face it, is still a super big deal on a brand new hardcover. Not even Amazon has new hardcovers for that cheap. So far I am having the best time because well.. #bookmail. But also, the books are amazing! I can’t wait to continue. And I have decided I will continue even after my Groupon has expired. Stay tuned for the books I’ve chosen in January & February so far.
I went through my messages. These are the books I had in November and December. You can probably guess on whether or not I read them since I couldn’t remember what any of them were. I’m not a very good participant. Too many books, too little time! #librarianproblems
Shrill by Lindy West. I had no idea who Lindy West was before I got this book but I do now. From her own website she is described as, “an American writer, feminist, fat acceptance movement activist, and film criticism editor.” She works at The Stranger with Dan Savage. It would seem that I’ve never written about my love for Mr. Savage on this blog but I do. I love him. So that made me interested. I read the chapter she wrote about him and some others but did not read the whole thing.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This book. I swear it haunts me. Annie Barrows writes the Ivy & Bean books. I love those books. They are adorable. But I don’t want an adorable adult novel. I can’t in good conscience read this book without cringing. Maybe someday someone will convince me. But it wasn’t this time.
I’ll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson. I started this and quit. I have no other excuse.