Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reading Roundup - April 2016

I can't believe it's already been a month since the last Show Us Your Books link-up! I didn't read quite as much last month as usual. I didn't even technically finish Eligible until May but I'm really hoping someone wants to talk about it with me - I have so many thoughts! Here's what else I read in April:


1) The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. 3/5 stars. I really enjoyed Simonson's first book, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, but I didn't like this one nearly as much. One of the jacket quotes recommends the book to "fans of leisurely British fiction." And leisurely it certainly is! The plot, following Beatrice Nash, a female (gasp!) Latin teacher who moves to a small village in southern England at the start of WWI, meanders along at an impossibly slow pace. The characters weren't especially memorable and overall it lacked the charm and wit that drew me to Major Pettigrew.

2) The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin. 2/5 stars. I did not like this book at all. It's set in New York in the 1950s, when Truman Capote became friends with the very highest society ladies on the heels of his Breakfast at Tiffany's success. The characters are all so unlikeable. I didn't connect to any of them. And I didn't like the whole style of the book... A very outsider viewpoint bouncing around from one character to the next, rather than actually getting to know any one person in depth.

3) Newport by Jill Morrow. 2/5 stars. This one was another disappointment. Set in the 1920s in Newport, Rhode Island, I was hoping for a Edith Wharton style novel with plenty of social intrigue and lavish detail of the glitz and glamour at the summer "cottages" of the Gilded Age elite. Not so. It could have been set in any random town in the modern day. In fact the characters, who are overall flat and unrealistic, seemed more like modern day characters in speech and sensibility. There is also a supernatural element that I wasn't into at all.

4) Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. 3/5 stars. This is a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I was really looking forward to reading it, being a fan both of P&P and Sittenfeld's earlier books. Unfortunately... It didn't really work for me. While I appreciate the difficulty of the task, I don't think the modernizations stayed true to the original character of the P&P. I found the characters mostly annoying and unlikeable. And I didn't understand why she chose to stray from the P&P plot in some instances but not others. I would love to chat about this book in more detail with anyone who has read it - Please comment below!

As you can see, apart from Eligible which doesn't really count, I'm going through a historical fiction phase... Specifically early 20th century England, although two of these books are set in New York/New England, so I suppose that works too. Does anyone have any recommendations in that genre?

30 comments:

  1. I agree with you 100% about Swans-- I thought it was going to be so much different and I didn't really care for it at all/kind of wanted to stop reading it quite a few times and I liked the end where the author talked about how she wrote the book almost more than the book itself!

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    1. Me too! I thought the author's notes at the end (also the one about "the 400" list, did your copy have that?) was better than the actual book. I almost quit reading several times and only didn't because I didn't have anything else to read on hand.

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  2. I always run my posts from the last linkup to the current one - so I always spill over into the next month!

    I like Curtis Sittenfeld but Eligible doesn't appeal to me.

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    1. I think I'm going to start going from linkup to linkup too - Easier to keep track of that way.
      I liked Prep and American Wife but not so much Sisterland or Eligible. Wonder what she'll do next.

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  3. I had a blah reading month a couple of months ago. They're frustrating.

    I always run my month from linkup to linkup rather than by actual calendar month. Easier to keep track!

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    1. So frustrating! And then it takes me forever to get through each mediocre book because I do other things instead of reading. I guess that should be a signal to quit the book altogether!

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  4. i have read Eligible! I liked it though. I'm a huge P&P fan, but I'm not a purist (not that you are!) so I kinda liked how it went. It was very different. I've read a lot of variations and I feel like this one was different to others and not as obvious. I thought some parts were really interesting and well done, others were stupid and annoying, but overall i quite enjoyed it. i have never read any of sittenfeld's other books though. i am currently reading another p&p variation haha from netgalley, i didn't know it was a p&p variation when i requested it but was pleasantly surprised. so far it's okay, but it is much like all the others i've read, so nothing exciting or new.. does that make sense? that's why i liked eligible. but i'm the one who keeps reading the same story, so that's my fault lol

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    1. I did read it really fast but with more of a trainwreck fascination... What are you going to do to my beloved Bennets next?! I thought it was interesting how much she downplayed Wickham's part - Hardly anything to do with Darcy and nothing with Georgiana or Lydia. And why even have the Kathy de Bourg character if she doesn't play the same role? I found Mrs. Bennet and Mary more annoying in this book than the original, but Lydia more likeable. One thing I thought was off was that originally the entail is not Mr. Bennet's fault, but in this version it is through his mismanagement and passivity that they lose the house - That seems like it changed his character.

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  5. I just read Eligible and really liked it. I guess I really didn't expect it to be TOO close to the original when I knew it was modern times. I can see how it wouldn't work for everyone though.

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    1. I think the Eligible TV show part was too over-the-top for me. I wish they had just been normal people. But it's a really difficult book to modernize I think!

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  6. I just finished the Summer Before the War and agree - it is slow-paced. Overall I liked it but would have also liked a bit more urgency or tension. I'm torn about Eligible. I have not read it, seen good and so-so reviews for it, but I just don't know. I'm not a P&P purist, but there are so many retellings/modernizations that seem to be the same.

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    1. Haha, I was reading/commenting on your blog at the exact same comment you were writing this!
      I'm definitely not a P&P purist - I love Bridget Jones! But I think that one was almost better for being more loose with the plot rather than trying to updated EVERYTHING which is pretty much impossible to make it realistic in modern day.

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  7. Totally agree with you about Swans of 5th Avenue! What a letdown!

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    1. I'm so glad you agree, I'm always a little hesitant to say how much I DIDN'T like a book in case other people loved it!

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  8. I was so bummed about Swans of Fifth Avenue! It sounded like it would be good, but it was such a bore!

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    1. I agree, I liked her 1st book but this one... Nope! I almost quit several times but didn't have anything else to read at the time so kept going.

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  9. I actually liked The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared. I know, long title, but it was my first historical fiction and I really enjoyed the humor.

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    1. I have read that one! It was a very quirky type of humor but I enjoyed it too.

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  10. I've heard The Summer Before The War is super slow, but I still want to read it :)

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    1. I think it's worth the read as long as you are prepared for the slower pace! I think I felt extra let-down because I liked her first book so much.

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  11. The only way I can keep any order is I don't look at the calendar dates...I just run my books "monthly" from link-up to link-up.
    Eligible sounds run up a friend of mine's alley. I'll have to recommend it to her.

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    1. Yes I'm going to do it from one linkup to the next from now on!

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  12. I've heard mixed reviews on Eligible, and I might not chance it. I love Pride and Prejudice, and I don't like books that mess up original characters, although I love a good retelling.

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    1. I couldn't NOT read it, but it was a little disappointing - Not sure she stayed as true to the characters as I would have liked.

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  13. Whelp. I haven't really heard of any of these! Haha. And confession time: I haven't read P&P yet....!!

    Interesting to see so many people keep track of their last books read by the dates of the linkups. I thought about that, but I like to see what I read in a particular month, and I don't think I could wrap my head around it the other way lol. I just go into foodreads and see which books have an end date of the last month.

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    1. I was surprised that so many people do it way too. I am such an accountant! I'm like, This post is for APRIL! How can I possibly include a book I read in MAY?!
      Can't believe you've never read P&P!

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    2. Haha! Ya, plus, I started my monthly book recaps before I joined the linkups...now I just wait to post the post on the linkup day!

      I've actually read so few of the classics...but I definitely plan to read P&P one day!

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  14. Whomp whomp from me, too, as I've never heard of any of these books! Jess mentioned Pride and Prejudice. I once tried reading it but had a tough time getting into it. Maybe it's time to try again?

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    1. Yeah, I can imagine how P&P would be hard to get into. It's a very slow paced and old fashioned style of writing. I usually only read modern fiction but I love Jane Austen. I think it helped that I grew up watching a BBC version with my mom so I knew the story before I ever read the book. That made it easier to visualize the action when I was reading.

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  15. Any sandwich that has bacon is a winner in my book!! Grace & Frankie is my fave show! I already finished the second season and it only came out last week 😬

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