20. I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star by Judy Greer
As the title indicates even if you don’t think you know who Judy Greer is, you have definitely seen her before if you have ever watched television or movies. She has been in a lot of stuff, and I have always been a fan of hers, so I was excited to read this book. It’s a bunch of essays and observations about her life. It’s really a personal story about how she feels and the awkward things she has done and still does. It isn’t super inside Hollywood if that is what you are looking for, nor is it really a tell-all about her life. You can tell the things she is keeping close to the vest. I found it to be a humorous and endearing read. If you like Judy Greer, then I recommend that you check out this book. I give it a 7 out of 10.
19. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
I don’t normally pull my plot summaries for these reviews from other places, but there is a lot going on in this one that I don’t feel like trying to flesh out on my own. So from the plot summary listed in Goodreads:
“Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s museum, alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle.
One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River. The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.”
I didn’t really care much for this book. For a world that is filled with so many exotic characters I was kind of bored by it. It was obvious that the stories were going to come together at the end, but in the mean time they just didn’t even feel like they were part of the same book to me. I found myself racing to the end of this book just to be done with it. The book had a lot of promise, but it fell completely flat for me.
18. Cambridge by Susanna Kaysen
It’s the 1950s and Susanna is a young pre-teen daughter of two academics. While their work drags the family to various places around the world she constantly longs for her beloved Cambridge. Meanwhile she shares stories about their adventures in various cities as well as the dynamic at home between her parents, her music teacher, and her au pair as well as one of her father’s coworkers. It was a short little book. It was an ok read, but nothing special. I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it. I give it a 5 out of 10.
17. Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture by Dana Goodyear
I read this book for one of my book clubs. It was not exactly what I expected based on the author’s own intro to the book, which I found kind of weird. However it was still pretty interesting (and gross). Goodyear examines various food trends that involve things such as exotic and endangered animals, food that could potentially kill you if it’s prepared wrong, parts of animals that aren’t normally eaten in American culture, and the raw food movement. She kind of bounces around from topic to topic so it’s a bit more of a bunch of connected essays than a book written completely through.
In addition to some discussion of the cultural reasons why we eat some things and not others, Goodyear brings her own sensibilities to the book. She doesn’t eat everything that she researches. She is pregnant for some of it, which influences her decisions based on how much risk she wants to put her baby in. Other stuff she does eventually try. It was an interesting book. If you like food and food writing I would recommend it. I give it a 7 out of 10.
16. Someone by Alice McDermott
This book was my pick for one of my book clubs recently. I have read and really enjoyed some of McDermott’s other novels. Some of them I really wished at the time I had someone to discuss them with, so this seemed like a good opportunity to read one of her books and have some people to talk about it with. The plot revolves around a girl named Marie, who is an Irish Catholic living in Brooklyn. We essentially follow her from her early childhood all the way through the end of her life. There really isn’t actually much of a plot per se. It’s more of a character study. The lack of a real plot kind of hung up some of the people in my book club, and feelings about the book as a whole wound up being very mixed as a result.
I however thought it was a fantastic novel as did some other people because of the writing. McDermott is an amazing crafter of words, and I just wanted to savor them. I have this image of sucking on a hard candy where you linger with it instead of eating it in one quick bite. That is how I felt about reading what she had written. I kept having to go back and reread things to fully take them in, and it wasn’t a book I could quickly read through because I had to concentrate to make sure I was taking in every word properly. I thought it was beautifully written, and that made it all worth it for me. There are very few authors I have read that I think craft the English language as well as McDermott does. I give it an 9 out of 10.
15. And the Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass
I really enjoyed Glass’ previous novels, so I was excited to read this. Unfortunately I did not like it nearly as much. After losing his job and going into somewhat of a tailspin, Kit Noonan’s wife insists that he try and find out who his father is, a secret his mother has kept from him his entire life. She believes it has been eating away at him and is the root cause of many of their problems. Kit first turns to his first stepfather Jasper, who is no longer married to his mother. Jasper is an old ski bum living in the wilderness of Vermont, and Kit takes a trip to see him in hopes that his mother once revealed her secret to her former husband. The story is told from each of their perspectives as well as eventually adding in that of Lucinda, who is Kit’s biological grandmother.
I just didn’t find myself caring about any of these characters or their problems. I also felt like Glass didn’t do a very good job of convincing me why Kit’s mother would never tell him who his biological father was especially since she knew he had died years before. It just seemed silly to me. I was very disappointed by this book I am sad to say. Hopefully her next book will be better. I give it a 5 out of 10.
14. Delicious by Ruth Reichl
I recently read one of Ruth Reichl’s non-fiction books and really enjoyed it, so I thought I would check out her fiction debut. Delicious! revolves around a food magazine of the same name. Shortly after Billie takes a job as an assistant at the magazine it is shut down. However she is the lone employee kept on in order to respond to the Delicious guarantee that allows people to get the cost of their meal back if they make a recipe and it doesn’t turn out well. Left alone in the building she discovers a long locked library and begins searching through the archives where she discovers a mystery. There are letters written between a young girl and James Beard during World War II, but they are not filed together. They are filed via an odd system created by one of the former librarians to try and hide their content. Billie along with some of her former coworkers turned friends attempts to find them all and find out what happened to the little girl and her family before her access to them is cut off forever.
I didn’t love this book while I was reading it, but somehow my memories of it are fonder than what I remember feeling at the time. I’m not sure what that says about me or the book. If you don’t mind books where the plot feels entirely contrived and many things that happen seem implausible than this really isn’t a bad book. If you like Reichl’s memoirs you might give it a try too. I give it a 6 out of 10.
13. The Reappearing Act: Coming Out on a College Basketball Led By Born-Again Christians by Kate Fagan
This is a short memoir about Kate Fagan’s experiences of realizing she was gay and coming out while playing basketball for the University of Colorado. Many of her friends and teammates at the time were heavily involved in Fellowship of Christian athletes, something she participated with them in. When she finally gets up enough courage to share her secret with her friends she is essentially shunned except when they are drilling in to her that her actions are a sin leading her ultimately to completely turn away from God and her former friends. It was a pretty good story, and to me it really spoke about how much many Christians are hurting people and forcing them out of the church because they are gay instead of showing them real love. I give it a 6 out of 10.