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September '16 Books, Part 1 of 4

I've decided to reinvent this blog once again by simply doing what I intended to do in the first place -- write about the books I read. So, here goes nothing...

Love and Friendship by Jane Austen (Adult, Fiction)
I didn’t know about the Jane Austen novella “Love and Friendship” until the release of the movie based on it earlier this year. The version I read was packaged with many other Austen writings, all considered “juvenilia,” i.e. things she wrote when she was young.  I read more than a few of the selections and the main piece. They lacked some polish, but demonstrated her growing wit. You can recognize character sketches that will be used later in her more famous novels. I really wouldn’t recommend this to anyone but the most ardent Austen fan. I thought I was one, but I felt myself drifting too often when reading some parts of the book (three collections of juvenilia in one binding). Still, I gave it four stars on GoodReads because the stars because four stars means you like it very much. And I did.

Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot by Andrea Leininger (Adult, Non-fiction)
A co-worker who believes in reincarnation gave this to me to read. I am on the fence about reincarnation, and she believes in it wholeheartedly. I suppose it could happen. And I have read other cases (mostly from Indian families) that seem eerie. It’s said that memories of your past life come to the surface in your new life when you are a very young child and the old life is still fresh. I know a young girl who was afraid of men early in her life, and I often thought, well, maybe something bad happened to her in her past life. But then again, maybe not.  Unfortunately, this book did nothing to convince me one way or the other. It tells the story of a young boy who remembers being a World War II pilot. The events and people and airplane mechanics he remembers are backed up by real life, if we are to believe the parents. And that’s where the problem lies: The book suffers from the way his parents tell the story. At some points it becomes more about them and their religious beliefs than about what their son remembers. I wish the book were slightly shorter and focused solely on the child and the veterans he meets. I gave it three stars.

The Winter Girl by Matt Marinovich (Adult, Fiction, Thriller (but not really))
Boy, am I sorry I read this. It was just a little too far-fetched. And, worse, poorly plotted. Not a single character is likeable, everybody lies, and the ending comes out of left field. A young couple moves out the Hamptons in the winter months to help care for the wife’s father. But something is not right. The dad is a sadistic monster who raped his daughter or daughters. I’m not even sure. And the ending is a black hole to me. I gave it two stars because I would have felt bad giving it only one.

The Lost and Found by Katrina Leno (Young Adult, Fiction)
I judge most YA books on whether the characters and situations are believable (to me). I dislike books with teens who are wise beyond their years and I detest too much angst. This book avoids those problems. And it’s able to be funny, believable, and endearing all while adding magic realism. Two teens (Louis in California and Frannie in Maryland) met on an online forum for trauma victims when they were very little and have maintained pen-pal status for years. When they both find a reason to make trips to Austin, Texas, to resolve some problems, they decide to meet there.  Happily for all of us, they are even better friends in person and maybe even something more. And it’s lovely. They do not have sex. They do not die. Nothing awful happens to anyone (all the awful stuff already happened). Frannie and Louis are well-developed characters and their traveling companions – Frannie’s cousin Arrow and Louis’s sister Willa -- are more than just bit players and stereotypes. Willa’s story is especially important and nicely rendered (but I would have liked to read more about Arrow). The book probably would work even without the magic realism, though that’s what gives the book its title and secondary meaning (both Frannie and Louis have always lost things and during the course of the road trips they magically find items that belong to the other person – items that in no way could have traveled across the country).  Finally, hooray!, there’s not a single Manic Pixie Dream Girl to be found. I gave it four stars.


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