Welcome to June, my sweet readers. I’m writing this after spending a sunny afternoon by the pool with–what else?–a book. I told you last time that May would be more active reading-wise, and I managed to keep that promise, despite starting a Big Fancy Job (!) and having the worst cold of my life. It was also my birth month!
Here’s what I read in May:
A book set in a different country: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The novel revolves around the appearance of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Islam’s tightening grip on women’s lives. It uses a dual narrative, describing two women entering adulthood at different points in time in Afghanistan. One woman, Mariam, grows up a social pariah due to the nature of her birth and eventually is sold into a controlling and terrifying marriage. Another younger woman, Laila, grows up privileged in another area of the country but is adopted as a second wife to this man, due to a terrible wartime tragedy.
I found the novel’s merits lie in its developed characters and its emotional resonance. Seriously–this book gets SAD; tears were shed for sure. The atmosphere was also very well-written; I really enjoyed reading about a land that most people only know from television (the author has spent quite a lot of time in Afghanistan). The abusive husband character, Rasheed, lacked the same development that the other main characters had. I thought the reasons for his nastiness could have been explored more. Other than that, I found the book to be absolutely stellar and a must-read for those interested in Afghan culture, as well as female relationships. Four stars.
A book that was originally written in a different language: Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh
I finished this in a night and immediately wanted to turn back to page 1. Having previously seen the French film based on this book, I found that they were quite similar and equally enjoyable. This novel tells the story of a young woman named Clementine who struggles with her feelings towards women. She falls in love with a woman named Emma who sports a fluorescent mop of blue hair (her hair is the only feature in the novel that is in color). The story is told over a period of many years, starting when Clementine is still in high school and ending in adulthood.
I have been getting more interested in lesbian fiction lately, and I found that this was a great place to start. Both the art and the story are beautiful and fluid, reading like an epic love story spanning years and years of two women’s lives. Five stars.
(I’m not your mother, but this book contains situations of a carnal nature. Use discretion as necessary).
A book set in high school: Princess in the Spotlight by Meg Cabot
Like I said above, I came down with the worst cold of my life in May. That means two weeks of coughing, balled-up tissue, Flonase, and general misery. Now who wants some hefty, deep-thinking book when they’re sprawled on the couch in days-old pajamas? I grabbed for Princess in the Spotlight and was treated with musings from one of my all-time favorite book heroines.
This is the second book book in the series (do I even need to tell you the plot of these books?), focusing on Mia Thermopolis growing more used to her title as Princess of Genovia. She appears on a nationwide TV show to give an interview, and even has a secret admirer! Ooh la la. A secret admirer, even in my weakened state, I figured out a mile off. Oh well; that’s why I wanted to read it while I was sick. The series is quick and easily digestible, yet hilarious and great fun to read. I particularly enjoyed this one and gave it five stars.
A book written by someone under 30: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
This was definitely the standout book for the month of May. Among the top ten best-selling books of all time, the diary sets itself up for very high expectations and, though it was not written to entertain, it far exceeded those expectations for me. Anne’s style is precocious and often wry, a true delight to read. She observes her surroundings and recounts her experiences with a sly passion, yet her youth and inexperience is also present in her writing. Anne offers insight that surpasses the ability of most adults.
I feel that it’s not necessary to give a plot summation, because most people know already Anne’s story. However, her diary offers a deeper look into the isolated lives of these people in hiding from 1942 to 1944. It is an absolute must-read. Five stars.
A book by a female author: Wild by Cheryl Strayed
I mentioned that I started a Grownup Office Job for the summer in the NUCLEAR INDUSTRY (!!!). Though nowadays I’m finding ways to break up the day, starting out I had very little to do. Because escapism is an effective tool, I picked up Wild in order to fill my time. It is the popular story of a woman’s trek across the Pacific Crest Trail (which is 2,663 miles long) after her mother’s untimely death and her own divorce from her husband. I’m about as outdoorsy as [insert joke here], but I really enjoyed the descriptions of the ever-changing terrain Strayed encountered. She is an incredibly skilled writer, effortlessly changing the subject from one thing to another with the reader following right along behind. Her story is often a tragic one, but her story of her hike carrying a backpack bigger than her is inspirational and insightful. It’s a great one to take with you on an airplane or to the beach. Four stars.
A funny book: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Speaking of beach reading, the last book I read in May was read at Folly Beach in Charleston, SC. A few chapters into this one, I was reminded of Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Lawson, however, writes in much more of a manic, tangential style. Her recounts of her childhood in 1970s rural Texas with a taxidermist father are downright odd and side-splittingly hilarious. I adore stories about people’s families–the stranger the better–and these were my favorite part of the book.
However, I got burned out rather quickly in the later portions of the book when Lawson discusses her adult years. Her chattery, off-the-wall voice gets a bit tiresome and hard to follow. However, for the most part the book was very funny and entertaining. Four stars.
What did you read in May?