Craving Those Comfort Reads

No doubt about it: I have Book Lust Syndrome. I already have far too many books on my “to-read” list. But that doesn’t keep me from adding new ones to my shelf when something catches my eye, or a trusted friend makes a reading recommendation (talking about you, Courtney!) In short, I’m a textbook (pun intended) victim of this adage:

 

Leona, 7, poses inside a labyrinth installation made up of 250,000 books titled "aMAZEme" at the Royal Festival Hall in central London
Photo credit: Olivia Harris/Reuters.

But as giddy as I get over cracking a new book’s spine and exploring the possibility contained within, there are times when a familiar read offers much-needed comfort. These comfort books aren’t always the most refined or revolutionary. But there’s something in their familiarity, in their resonance of a simpler time, that is soothing.

Life at this moment is definitely making me want to hide in some well-worn pages. The deadline for my massive, months-long work project is approaching with terrifying rapidity. I’m still juggling my writing and my full-time “real” job at the Embassy, along with all my other responsibilities, my relationships. It’s all I can do to get in my lap-swimming sessions. I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in months and that makes me sad.

Continue reading “Craving Those Comfort Reads”

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All Key-ed Up

You may have noticed my blog has been quiet of late. Part of this is a result of busy months at work. But the last few weeks of silence have been for the best of reasons.

Vacation.

I find coming home to the U.S. after living overseas is like a big gulp of oxygen after holding your breath underwater. It’s not that Suriname is such a dreadful place to live. It just feels so good to be home.

This particular trip back was a whirlwind: a day in Houston, a weekend jaunt to the Midwest, down to Key West to meet my family on their vacation, a few more days in various Texas locales, then a week in my hometown on the Texas Gulf Coast (and surfing!).

With all that travel time, I wasn’t going to be caught without a book in my hand.

So one night in Key West, while my dad and twin brothers were being awesome and doing a night dive around an old shipwreck (their tales of octopus, shark, and fish sightings have made me determined to finally get my scuba certification), I was cheerily getting my nerd on at a local bookstore. Continue reading “All Key-ed Up”

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Uprooted”

As you’ve likely sussed out by now, I’m a fan of reading. But rare is the book that tempts me to sacrifice my own writing time. It’s been ten months since that last occurred. (That siren was Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girlwhich I review here). But Naomi Novik’s Uprooted called too sweetly to be resisted. I wound up rolling two hours of writing time into the weekend, because I blew them off on Thursday to finish the book.

That wasn’t the only irresponsible thing I did, either. I stayed up until 1 AM, when I had to be into work by 7:30. I thought I’d skim just a few pages before I did my post-work lap-swimming… I wound up reading in the pool locker room for an hour. Uprooted was that compulsively readable; I had to know what happened next. And I definitely wasn’t confident about how it would end: I could see the author taking the triumphant track, or the bittersweet one. (But no spoilers here–you’ll have to read it yourself to find out!) Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Uprooted””

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Baby Doll”

Hollie Overton’s Baby Doll, like B.A. Paris’s Behind Closed Doors (reviewed here), strikes me as another book done a disservice by its marketing campaign’s comparing it to Gone Girl. I realize this is a classic sales technique; hitching one book to another, explosively popular franchise is a guaranteed way to attract fans looking to re-scratch that itch. But it also establishes reader expectations not always fulfilled.

However else one might feel about Gone Girl, it’s nevertheless fair to say it lived up to its label of taut thriller. Action, albeit often twisted, constantly drives the novel forward, ever tightening the narrative screws.

Baby Doll, by contrast, is really about the emotional fallout after the action has passed. The book’s opening shows Lily Riser, kidnapped at 16 and held captive for 8 years, finally escaping her basement prison with her daughter Sky (fathered by Lily’s kidnapper and habitual rapist, Rick). By page 60, Lily and Sky are reunited with Lily’s family, and Rick is behind bars. And there ends the most action-oriented part of the novel. Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Baby Doll””

Coincidence & Writing Cultivation

Now that a certain conference is over, I can breathe a sigh of relief and finally, officially break the happy news I alluded to last week….

No, I haven’t scored that long lusted-after novel contract.

Nope, Foreign Service friends, we haven’t discovered that our onward assignment is to be my dream post of Dublin. Or Belfast. Or Prague.

And no, despite my pleading, husband couldn’t be coaxed into getting me a penguin for my birthday last weekend.

But yes: I can now say I have an award-winning book on my authorial résumé. Continue reading “Coincidence & Writing Cultivation”

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “News of the World”

Book News: News of the World is among ten titles on this year’s National Book Award Longlist: Fiction. The five finalists will be named on October 13th, with the winner announced on November 16th. So fingers crossed for News! (Of course, I’m biased–as a Texas girl, I can’t help rooting for a Texas-centric tale to win.)

Upon first reading the synopsis of Paulette Jiles’ News, I formed a prediction regarding what the novel might be like, as readers often do when meeting a book. The story of an ex-Army Captain transporting a young girl rescued from Indian captivity across 19th Century Texas, the novel would be a Western-style action/adventure–the literary equivalent of a John Wayne film. Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “News of the World””

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Behind Closed Doors”

Let me first issue a warning: if you Google this book’s title, click only on the version penned by B. A. Paris (unless you’re in an exploratory mood). In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised that a title like Behind Closed Doors would be shared by a few racier reads. But surprised I was by a few of the results generated by “Behind Closed Doors Book.”

As far as the actual review: this is a tricky one. Generally, I prefer reviewing books I really like. After all, I’m an aspiring novelist myself; I can easily imagine the pain of having years of artistic work criticized. And just because a book’s not for me, doesn’t mean it isn’t an excellent fit for someone else.

But I received an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) of Behind Closed Doors and feel I owe a review, even if the book was a qualified success for me. Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Behind Closed Doors””