Beckie reads Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson

Why did you read this book? I can’t remember why I put it on my To Read list, but I’m glad I did.

Has Jeremy read it? No.

42-word review: Told mostly in flashback to the year when Tillie’s mother disappeared, this heartbreaking portrait of a child trying to make sense of the world captures the blurred edges between childhood reality, imagination and misinterpretation. Bonus: the plot’s almost as compelling as Tillie.

Overall rating:  5 ruby cups (out of 5)

Beckie Reads The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

Why did you read this book? I put a hold on this at the library because it was in the Tournament of Books, and it ended up winning.

Has Jeremy read it? No.

42-word review: The adventures of abolitionist John Brown, narrated by a cross-dressing young ex-slave. The final raid was exciting, but it was slow going to get there. Its comic tone wasn’t actually amusing, and the juxtaposition with the serious story didn’t work for me.

Overall rating:  3 good-luck charms (out of 5)


Beckie listens to The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol I: The Pox Party

Why did you read this book? It was on my “to read” Goodreads shelf for some reason, so I must have heard something good about it.

Has Jeremy read it? No.

42-word review: Octavian, raised as a prince, learns he’s a slave and his education an experiment just as the American Revolution is starting. A tragic story of slavery and betrayal that somehow ends up being incredibly tedious, largely thanks to the period writing style.

Overall rating: 3 botany lessons (out of 5)


Beckie reads The Dinner by Herman Koch

Why did you read this book? It’s on The Morning News’ Tournament of Books shortlist. Also, it was described as “a European Gone Girl”.

Has Jeremy read it? No.

42-word review: More We Need to Talk About Kevin than Gone Girl. The titular dinner involves two brothers and their wives discussing their children. The (very) slowly growing creepiness was engaging enough to read it in one evening, but it wasn’t quite satisfying.

Overall rating: 3 wine glasses (out of 5)

Beckie reads The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Why did you read this book? It’s on the shortlist for The Morning News’ Tournament of Books.

Has Jeremy read it? No.

42-word review: The aftermath of one brother’s pro-revolutionary actions in 1960s India. I kept expecting new character perspectives to add emotional depth to the events previously just sketched out, but they all just continued in their unchanging insular states (even through major life events).

Overall rating: 3 ponds (out of 5) (I had trouble even thinking of something to use as a rating because I found this so bland)


Beckie reads The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman

Why did you read this book? It was on the kindle app, and it sounded interesting. The subtitle is “Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking”, and I certainly hate all that “anything bad that happens is your own fault for not being positive enough”

Has Jeremy read it? Yes.

42-word review: Author tries out stoicism, buddhism and other approaches to accepting uncertainty and failure and being happy anyway. It’s not anything groundbreaking, but it’s an easy-to-read summary of different perspectives on happiness. I found the parts on survivor bias and insecurity most interesting.

Overall rating: 3 smiley faces (out of 5)


Jeremy reads The Last Dead Girl by Harry Dolan

Why did you read this book? I really liked this guy’s first book, Bad Things Happen. I didn’t like his follow-up so much, but still decided to give this a go.

Has Beckie read it? No, she’s not into crime stuff so much unless it’s Kate Atkinson or car reading.

42 word review: Guy’s girlfriend gets murdered. Turns out she was investigating another murder herself for university’s Innocence Project, and of course everything ends up connected. Twisty plot with more good twists than bad — but some are bad — and good-humored, better-than-pulp-but-not-that-much-better writing.

Selected quotes:

  • He glared at me. “You’ve dodged a bullet. Stop trying to get back in front of it.”
  • She put it back on the shelf and took down the empty pill bottle.
    “Ambien,” she said. “Is this another clue?”
    “It might be. It’s a kind of sleeping pill, isn’t it?”
    She nodded. “A strong one. It can cause sleepwalking. Blackouts. Memory loss. It’s nothing you want to mess around with.”

Overall rating: 3 discarded popsicle sticks (out of 5)

Beckie rereads Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Why did you read this book? I read it the first time after seeing good reviews. I reread it because I was in the mood for something sweet and light-hearted and the only unread book at hand was Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem.

Has Jeremy read it? Yes, pre-blog.

42-word review: Lincoln is responsible for monitoring employee email, but he enjoys reading Beth and Jennifer’s exchanges too much to reprimand them. Sounds creepy, but Lincoln falling for Beth somehow avoids crossing that line. More than a little contrived, but a sweet romantic comedy.

Overall rating: 4 flagged emails (out of 5)


Jeremy reads The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman

Why did you read this book? This was Book #3 in my resolution to read 24 books related to personal growth in 2014. I chose this after reading The Happiness Project, as I thought something about the downside of pursuing happiness might be a useful juxtaposition.

Has Beckie read it? No.

42 word review: Basic premise: focusing on happiness and positive thinking often makes people angsty and miserable in short-run, or bad decisions that provoke extra hardship in long-run. Yay, melancholia! All the good ideas toward the front; last half either filler or redundant.

Useful quotes:

  • The worst thing about any event, Ellis liked to say, ‘is usually your exaggerated belief in its horror’.
  • Taking a non-attached stance towards procrastination, by contrast, starts from a different question: Who says you need to wait until you ‘feel like’ doing something in order to start doing it? The problem, from this perspective, isn’t that you don’t feel motivated; it’s that you imagine you need to feel motivated.
  • ‘The truth that many people never understand’, he wrote , ‘is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt.’

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 imps of the perverse.

Beckie reads Eleanor and Park (again)

Why did you read this book? I enjoyed Rainbow Rowell’s first book, Attachments. I was happy to read it aloud as a road trip book because I first experienced it as an audiobook, and, while I enjoyed it a lot, I prefer reading to listening.

Has Jeremy read it? Yes.

42 word review: Adorable high-school love story tempered by bullying and scary home life on one side and more typical teen angst on the other. Their progression from reluctant seat-mates to falling in love was well done, as was the portrayal of their family relationships.

Overall rating: 4 Watchmen issues (out of 5)