Reading life review: October

Freckles (Gene Stratton-Porter)
Fiction. With the Misses. A follow-up to August's A Girl of the Limberlost. (Related entries here and here.) We loved both books, unabashedly, completely.

Citizen Girl (Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus)
Fiction. As it turns out, I actually did read more than three books in September. This one was just so completely dreadful that I had utterly forgotten it when I was preparing my round-up.

I Draw, I Paint: Colored Pencils (Isidro Sanchez)
Art. Sanchez's I Draw, I Paint: Watercolor was helpful to me during last summer's pursuits, but I can't say the same about this book and my current class.

Room (Emma Donaghue)
The Good Daughters (Joyce Maynard)
My Lie: A True Story of False Memory (Meredith Maran)
Borrowed all three from the library and read them in quick succession. Random observations: (1) Room really is as unusual and well conceived as "everyone" says, but I didn't love it. (2) Yes, that Joyce Maynard. (3) A lot of people live lives far more complicated and fraught with emotional danger than my own. I think that makes me one of the lucky ones.

Every Great Chess Player Was Once a Beginner (Brian Byfield and Alan Orpin)
Learn Chess Quick (Brian Byfield and Alan Orpin)
Non-fiction. You'll find my PSA on these two books here.

Henry V (William Shakespeare)
Play, classic.
Henry V: The Graphic Novel (American English / Original Text edition; adapted by John McDonald)
Graphic novel. The first, a yearly adventure. The second, new to me and well appreciated by the Misses. (Related entries here, here, and here.)

The False Friend (Myla Goldberg)
Fiction. Goldberg's Bee Season amazed me, and I continue to recommend it to readers who enjoy and appreciate contemporary fiction with a literary lilt (as opposed to say, a decidedly bestselling beat). Perhaps I met her latest novel with too much anticipation and expectation, then, but where I sought a penetrating and offbeat glimpse into the world of middle-school bullies and the women they become, I found mostly petulant navel-gazing, not much of which was particularly insightful.

Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It (Maile Meloy)
Fiction, short stories. Picked up as an impulse-purchase and completed in a single Sunday afternoon. If that's not a recommendation, I don't know what is.

Leopold and Loeb: The Crime of the Century (Hal Higdon)
Non-fiction, true crime. While reading this serviceable account of the 1924 kidnapping and murder of Bobby Franks, I revisited my entry on McCurdy's article "The Childhood Pattern of Genius" and realized afresh that GENIUS doesn't always mean GOOD, does it? Heh, heh, heh. I purchased the book after watching Compulsion (1959) three years ago, which means, yes, my purchased:read ratio is about 13:1. And that's okay, says Mr. M-Mv. Some people stock up on tuna and canned vegetables. We stock up on brain food. Getting back to the seamier side of Chicago history (i.e., the Nietzschean supermen who botched their "perfect murder"): The book is, as I said, serviceable. The film, though, is excellent. (Related entry here.)

The Wright 3 (Blue Balliet)
Juvenile fiction. Speaking of Chicago, this follow-up to Chasing Vermeer (related entry here) finds the Lab School students chasing that ol' synchronicity / serendipity/ synthesis all around the Frederick C. Robie House.

What to Do about Alice? (Barbara Kerley)
Juvenile fiction. Delightful.

The Unwritten, Vol. 2: Inside Man (Mike Carey)
Graphic series. Girl Detective recommended Volume 1, and now I'm hooked.

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring (Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan)
Juvenile non-fiction. Related entry here.

The Mailbox (Audrey Shafer)
YA fiction. Let me be clear: I loved this book. I'm just a little ambivalent on the subject of its intended audience (twelve and up). Shafer serves up sophisticated ideas, including the horrors of war and the nature of some soldiers' life after service, in a style alternately beautiful and, well, menacing. Sure, here and there, I thought I caught a Gary Schmidt vibe, maybe a little Richard Peck -- mostly in the almost-too-neat manner in which central plotlines are resolved -- but even on finishing, I thought, Boy, this seems awfully (for lack of a better word) heavy. Of course, your mileage may vary, as they say. Let me know what you think.

Dante's Divine Comedy: A Graphic Adaptation (Seymour Chwast)
Graphic novel. Another delightful discovery. There were moments, though, when Chwast's wry drawings (Dante looks like a hardened Chicago reporter) aroused in me the same shivers of worry and dread that the pigtailed version of myself experienced when I first read this page in Babar the King. Don't miss this one.

Half a Life (Darin Strauss)
Memoir. Although his insurers and a detective at the scene declare Strauss blameless, he is, of course, never quite the same after a classmate swerves into the path of his car and is killed in the unavoidable collision. Half a Life traces his journey from the accident to his decision to pen a memoir as therapy. Strauss has written three novels, included the acclaimed Chang and Eng. I read More than It Hurts You (2008) shortly after it was released and found it thought-provoking, if disturbing. Half a Life is often emotionally draining and occasionally indulgent, but it also read true. It's certainly not a book I will soon forget.

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