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Where does the reading time go? Back in January, I posted some Tips on Finding More Reading Time. I still have half a year to meet my yearly goal of 50 books. Eons ago, when I fancied myself a book blogger, the reviews I wrote for titles such as Fifty Shades of Grey brought me my first editing inquires. I may have shifted my blogging focus over the years but always enjoy chatting about books and literature in general. I will now be posting reading updates a couple of times a year to generate discussion and reading recommendations.

 

Station Eleven’s Optimistic Dystopia and More…

 

In the past, I focused on taking a professional and critical approach to book reviews. At other times, I’ve delved into literary criticism for books like The Color Purple. What follows here are casual reviews as I’ve posted to Amazon and Goodreads for the five books I would be most likely to tell someone to read. I continue to listen to one audiobook a month and have also joined a book club as a way to make time to get my reading done. As always, each cover featured here is an affiliate link. If you click and purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale.

 

Though heavily based on Plath’s life, the story of Esther in The Bell Jar could be the story of anyone who’s ever come mentally unhinged. The surprising thing about nervous breakdowns is that the person experiencing the psychotic break is often agonizingly aware of their descent into madness. Their disgust becomes a dependable comfort. They see themselves slipping, but simply cannot muster the will to care. The true beauty of the story lies in how Plath captured the sense of self-loathing and disgust Esther applies to herself and the rather privileged life she’s led. There has to be something more? Or is there? The alternative is to give into the spiral. Those who have never been in such dire depths may write this book off as selfish, but mental illness is all too real.

 

Only in a Vonnegut novel like Breakfast of Champions would a crazy-looking hack writer of sci-fi be the sane character and the relatively normal-appearing Pontiac dealer be the character who is actually the mentally ill one. How fitting that the crazy person takes the crazy stories of the writer as truth and ends up being the one going on a violent rampage. Just to keep things interesting, Vonnegut once more inserts his authorial voice into the story. Though his style is simple, the implications of the story’s jittery structure is anything but. The author really makes the reader wonder just exactly that madness is in a world where everything can be considered mad.

 

Rising Strong makes pertinent observations about how to rumble with all the emotional turmoil life throws our way. Time and again we create so-called shitty first drafts of the events of our lives and often continue to live that narrative without revisiting it to make revisions to reflect how far we’ve come. On the other hand, Brown’s book mixes qualitative and quantitative research. A good number of the personal anecdotes don’t tie in as tightly as they should and many tend to go on too long. Overall, this book had some good takeaways, but the reader may find themselves zoning at after the umpteenth semi-interesting story from her life.

 

The level of writing in Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel this novel is quite beautiful as is the intricacy of the plot. It’s a bit coincidental that the characters in the book in the pre- and post-apocalyptic timeline are all connected to the world-famous actor Arthur Leander who kicks the bucket on stage right before the Georgian Flu wipes wipes out 99.9% of the world’s population. With so many characters, it was a bit difficult to develop much of a connection with any of them, and the titles tie in with the graphic novel Arthur’s first wife wrote did not come off in a satisfying way. At least there are no zombies in the future portrayed in this book, but it is overly optimistic for a dystopian novel for my tastes.

 

Horror is a genre I don’t normally seek as it can be filled with senseless gory acts, but there is nothing senseless about Eden Royce’s collection of southern gothic short stories titled Spooklights. This is my type of horror. A bit literary, and the shocking bits sneak up on the reader with a slow and delightful burn. I am more likely to read this genre now given the focus on setting and atmosphere. The author captures her native South Carolina well. Royce also handles literary elements deftly. Her work is a pleasure to read because she finds that balance between story and craft.

 

Have you read Station Eleven? What other books have caught your interest in the past six months?

 

 

Are we friends on Goodreads? Also, I’ve recently updated my travelogue The Two Yosemites in honor of the National Park Service Centennial.

 

 

Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2016