Thanks to everyone for their fabulous reading suggestions in the comment sections of What I’m Reading on the Road Part I. However… I haven’t read any of your suggestions YET. It’s not that I don’t intend to, I very much plan to, but for now I have to work my way through my Kobo library. As it sits, I have read 29% of it. Hurray! Only 71% of my books left to read. Geez, that’s not a promising statistic.
The past month and a half has provided a lot of reading time. There have been 12 hour train journeys, 4-8 hour bus trips, an island day and a couple of days hotel-bound either due to weather or to disastrous bacteria that found its way into my GI tract. The last part was unpleasant.
So, what have I spent that time reading?
The Beauty of Humanity Movement By Camilla Gibb
Big props for this recommendation from my colleague, Jamie. The Beauty of Humanity Movement is set in Hanoi, Vietnam and tells the story of a Pho seller named Hung. The book is told part in flashbacks and part in present day as a Vietnamese-American named Maggie is trying to track down what happened to her father, an artist. Hung’s shop was once upon a time a gathering place for artists and intellectuals, but following independence and before the Vietnam War, there was much upheaval in Vietnam around personal property, arts and education.
This story brought to life a part of history that I’d never been aware of. You can also tell that Gibb spent a reasonable amount of time in Hanoi as she got every detail from the smells, attitudes, sounds and social nuances perfectly. This is one of those books where I was so glad that I’d visited Hanoi before reading it, as I could really appreciate how well she’d captured the details.
This is a must-read.
Playing Away by Adele Parks
In short, Playing Away is a story about a woman who seems to have it all, but cheats on her husband anyways. Why, one might ask, would I read such a book? No, David and I are perfectly happy (heck, we survived travel in Southeast Asia together!). Adele Parks is a heavy hitter in the women’s fiction genre in the UK and many a time have I seen her book covers of women with ridiculously good legs in WH Smith.
The main reasons I picked up the book, however, was that I wanted to see a good example of how you can sustain a reader’s attention with an unlikeable character. After all, is there a much more unlikeable act than a person cheating on their adoring, loveable spouse? Probably not. In my second novel, I’ve been told that from the synopsis my heroine could seem unlikeable, not relatable. I disagree, naturally. I think she’s hurt, vulnerable and has every reason to have anger, but I need to figure out how to bring out the characteristics that will hold my reader’s interest throughout.
Parks does this with Playing Away. Connie is not likeable. On a number of occasions I found myself rolling my eyes and thinking ‘what was she expecting’ or ‘God, this woman is repulsive, why am I reading it?’ But read it, I did. I am known for putting down books and not picking them back up again. While some people believe passionately in finishing every book, good or bad, I am not that person. I enjoyed Parks’ writing style. She is witty, humorous and painted the picture of a 90s woman in London very nicely. She also shows the gritty side of the glamorous, aspirational living, which I really appreciated, as so many authors avoid it. I still can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that kept me reading, but I can assure you that I’ll be going back and dissecting it to assist in my own writing.
The Wealthy Barber Returns by David Chilton
Maybe it’s subliminal, the idea that I was draining my bank account while on the three-month trip of a lifetime, but I had a strong desire to read this book while on vacation in order to hit the ground running with my savings on return. I also recently had the shocking realization that I suck when it comes to financial knowledge. I can save, and I save really well, but I do (rather, did) not know the difference between many of the plans that my money is invested in. Embarrassingly, I thought I was ready to both go on this trip AND put a down payment on a house when I returned, only to find that the bulk of my saved ‘down payment’ money is in plans that I ‘can’t’ withdraw from without massive penalties.
And so I read The Wealthy Barber Returns
I want to go back and read the original and my only complaint is that I bought the book in eBook format and not in paperback, as I want to go back and reference certain chapters. I’ll be making that purchase when I get back home.
Chilton breaks down finances for the masses, making it very clear and understandable. I feel much better versed in financial acumen and now have strategies to rebuild my post-vacation bank account and plan for the future. If you have questions about finances, or don’t have a retirement plan (yes, even if you’re in your twenties!), then buy this book.
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
The Fault in Our Stars. Oh man. Where to begin. I know I’m going to get some hate for this. I know that this YA novel is loved, or rather adored, by millions. I just couldn’t enjoy it. I liked the story concept, but the dialogue and the excessive monologues killed me. I lost count the number of times that I cringed. I mean… teenagers don’t talk like this! They just don’t. And the teenagers that do, if they in fact exist, are beyond irritating.
Urgh. Okay, I’m not going to go on about this book, but if it’s your thing, great, but if you get irritated easily by dialogue that is not realistic and teenagers that pontificate and say intelligent, offbeat things just to be intelligent, go forth and conquer.
And yes, it occurs to me that if I ever get published one day my books will equally get slated by someone who just doesn’t connect with them. I’m painfully aware of that.
How about you? What are you reading? And have you ever read a book that was on the bestseller list that you just didn’t connect with? Share below!
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