Plenty of Books: May 2016

Books

From Beth-Anne:

That Went By Fast: My first hundred years by Frank White

I loved this book. Frank White wrote this, his second book, about his first hundred years. Having spent almost his entire life on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, Frank takes the reader on a journey through time. What is most amazing is this man proves that if you’re willing, life will continue to amaze and surprise you well into your golden years. Spoiler alert: Frank shares the secret to life. Spend time with your kids, take that vacation, eat at that restaurant because before you know it you won’t be able to.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Everywhere I go I see people reading this popular series – and every bookseller has multiple copies of each installment piled high for eager readers. This coming-of-age story about best friends Elena and Lila starts in 1950 post-war Naples and spans decades. The cast of characters is impressive and requires attention to keep them and their flip-flopping loyalties straight. This book falls firmly in the love or leave it category – as my book club can attest to.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

If you’re looking for an easy, breezy beach read, this is it. Soon to be a television special starring Reese Whitherspoon and Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies is what happens when school politics and small town gossipers collide . . .oh, and throw in a murder. While some people may find the plot predictable and the characters a bit campy, I found this to be the winning combination I needed to end my heavy reading marathon.

The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon

I think everyone has read this cookbook or at the very least heard of it. I don’t think that I have attended a potluck in the last year where someone hasn’t brought something created by Angela Liddon. This cookbook exclusively features vegan recipes, many being gluten-free, oil-free, raw/no bake, sugar-free and grain-free. I know what you’re thinking and you’re wrong. I tried my hand at a few of recipes and they were delicious. A word of caution: several recipes include nuts and/or nut-flour making it a challenge to feed to my family where nut allergies abound. If you’re not sure it’s for you, check out the Oh She Glows website first to sample before you buy.

From Nathalie:

The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits

This book is one of the most satisfying and puzzling reads I’ve had in ages.  The Folded Clock is a diary, but its chapters are printed out of sequence so that you get an odd, hopping, patchwork kind of an affair.  That the reading experience is only heightened by this challenge to linearity is a testament to Julavits’s compelling ability to keep a reader enthralled.  She describes a day on which she spends six hours (six!) spinning tops with her son, followed by drawing, but the experience of successfully losing herself gets tangled up: “Once I’ve finished [the drawing], however, I am back to wondering–how can this day not mostly involve my waiting for it to be over?  Yet when this day has ended my child will be older and I will be nearer to dead.  Why should I wish for this to happen any sooner than it already will?”  The tension there–between immediate experience and reflection, between losing yourself in the company of others and wanting desperately to be alone, between then and now–these are tensions that she explores and teases out throughout the book.  I loved her self-deprecating humour and her ability to put her finger so precisely (sometimes so painfully) on the experiences of motherhood and the writing life.

Pretty by Greg Kearney

When I went along to the Authors for Indies Day at Book City on Danforth, Jessica Westhead was one of the authors selling books, and she raved about this collection of short stories.  The most compelling thing she said was that she will often go back to the book to re-read and to read aloud passages of the stories.  I’d never heard anyone say that, so I asked was it comic timing or the rhythm of the sentences that made her want to hear them.  Jessica said that they just seemed to call for a voicing, and now that I’ve read them I can see exactly why.  They are funny and they do have some spectacularly written passages, but they are also dialogue-heavy, making them feel as much like a play as fiction.  Voice is paramount in this collection, and Kearney captures the voices of his characters so wonderfully.

Flannery by Lisa Moore

Lisa Moore is one of my Must Read Everything authors.  I don’t even read reviews of her new books, I just buy them.  Flannery is a departure for her in that it is written for young adults.  It is, as a result, a little more plot-driven than her previous work and it does not have as much of her characteristic depth of insight into her characters’ inner lives.  It is, however, still marvelous.  Flannery is the reluctantly super-responsible daughter of a single mother capable of blowing the rent money on a whimsical gift for her kids.  She’s tough, loyal to a fault, and able to stay the course when her friends’ lives begin to go off the tracks as the plot thickens and the teen drama heightens.  I read it in one sitting.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

I love these modern retellings of Jane Austen.  I eat them up, and this retelling of Pride and Prejudice, perhaps, I gobbled more quickly than any of the others.  The Bennets have been transplanted to Cincinnati, and Darcy is a brain surgeon and Liz a reporter for a feminist magazine.  The financial crisis to hit the family combines compulsive online shopping and a staggering hospital bill for Mr. Bennet’s recent heart attack.  The feckless Bennets do not have health insurance.  Liz does, sensible thing, and she moves back home from New York to help put the family house in order.  I could not wait to keep turning the pages to find out what Sittenfeld would do next to update the story.  It’s over the top, it’s a circus and it’s immensely fun.

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