I figure it's never too late to review books that I read nine months ago and barely remember. So without further ado...
The Writing Class by Jincy Willett. Swistle suggested this one a while back, so of course I had to read it. About two pages into this, I knew I was going to like it a lot. It's funny and different and surprising. Fortunately, when it was over I had the sequel to look forward to, namely...
Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett. I think I liked this a touch less than the first one, but I was glad that I got to spend more time with all of the characters and see how the whole thing played out. I'd recommend them both.
Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willett. This isn't part of the same series, and I didn't even make it past the first third of the book. I found the protagonist dour and unlikeable, which main characters can go ahead and be if there's something else about them or their story to reel me in, but in this one, there wasn't. Can't win 'em all.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. I felt like this covered a lot of the same ground as Daring Greatly, but I loved it anyway. When I read her stuff, I find myself looking up and saying, "YESSSSS, EXACTLY!" a whole lot. This lady gets it.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. MAN OH MAN, I loved this book. By now I imagine most everyone has read it, and it went and won the damn Pulitzer Prize, so at least I know I wasn't out of my mind to go so nuts over it, but for real, it's as excellent as everyone says. And it's one of the best things I've ever read. The writing is extraordinary; the characters deeply felt and memorable; and the story almost excruciatingly vivid and compelling. Yes, it's long; but I didn't mind the length. I honestly wanted it to go on even longer. I was BEREFT when I finished it, and for a while I started over reading it from the very beginning, until I felt I could move on to something else. (I also went to the Frick on a snowy day so I could see the eponymous painting, and I stood on a horrendous line in the cold to gaze at that fragile little bird and think about the book some more and maybe sigh gustily about it all.) The only down side to this book is that it stressed me out; I got so emotionally involved that after reading it before bed, I would have terrible stress dreams and anxiety about it (I may have a problem).
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. After leaving Theo behind, I needed a palate cleanser, and this was just right. It was fast-paced and easy, but still enjoyable and unique.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. This was not light and required a fairly high level of attention, especially in the beginning, but I loved it, too. I tried not to think too hard about the metaphysical details, because I'm not certain the plot would hold up even to fantasy/time-travel scrutiny, but no matter. I enjoyed it a lot and I sure as hell am glad that I did not live in London during the Blitz. Damn.
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. I have loved some of her other stuff, but this was kind of forgettable.
Heft by Liz Moore. Ooooh, this was good. Loved the two main characters and their stories. The writing was terrific and it was so sad yet hopeful. Definitely recommend.
Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I don't think I swooned over this as much as the rest of the world. I liked it; I did. I just felt like everyone else liked it more.
Dancing Through It by Jenifer Ringer. This is a memoir by a recently retired NYCB dancer (I actually went to her retirement performance right around the time I read this -- it was very sweet). She had all kinds of struggles with her weight and compulsive overeating, and she ended up getting fired from the company for a while. But she overcame that, and she ended up marrying a fellow dancer and having two children while still dancing (she didn't like give birth on stage...you know what I mean). She's also a devout evangelical Christian, so her faith is a significant aspect of the book (which I didn't mind, but some people might). Anyway, the book was written in a conversational tone that I enjoyed. I was hoping for it to be a little more gossipy, but I think Jenifer is too kind and considerate to dish a lot of dirt.
Every Step You Take by Jock Soto. This had more of the insider's view of NYCB that I was looking for! Jock was always one of my favorite dancers and he writes really well. This was a fun one. He is of Puerto Rican and Navajo heritage, so he has a very interesting perspective as well as lots of delicious-sounding recipes that he weaves into the book.
Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead. This is about a Russian dancer who defects to the US back during the Cold War, and about the American dancer who helped him escape. Which makes it sound like some kind of political intrigue, but it isn't. It's more about the American dancer's life after she leaves the dance world to have a family. It was good. There were a few things about her depiction of ballet class and rehearsal that were wrong or sort of off, but it was reasonably believable for something written by an outsider to the dance world.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman. I think every married person can use a tune-up every once in a while to help keep things working in their relationship. This was one of the best books about marriage I've read. It's based on solid research and doesn't dwell in platitudes or take an extreme point of view. It's mostly about sustaining the friendship upon which a marriage is (hopefully) based, and about the kindness that should suffuse our dealings with our spouse. I highlighted a good portion of the book and should probably re-read it on a regular basis.
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala. I've never had the wind knocked out of me so thoroughly by a book. It's not a spoiler to tell you that it's a memoir by a woman who lost her husband, her two sons, and her parents in the tsunami in Sri Lanka. Truly, one moment they were all there, and then they weren't. Her story forces you to witness the unimaginable, and it's every bit as powerful and aching as you'd expect. Yet somehow, it also gave me a strange kind of hope. Because to truly lose EVERYTHING you have, as this woman did, and yet to continue on living, to walk with that grief and sorrow every day but to still find reasons to breathe every day -- it's actually miraculous. As frightened as I was to read this, I am so glad that I did.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Sooooo good. I adored this book. I didn't know anything about it before I read it, so I won't say more. I just really thought it was great and I hope the author comes out with something new soon.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I liked this a great deal, too! You'd think that the amnesia plot had been done to death, so I was skeptical, but I found it fresh and relevant and relatable. And suspenseful, too. I kept putting myself in the main character's shoes and thinking what it would be like to wake up thinking it was ten years ago, early in my marriage and before having a child and being kind of worn out all the time. I don't know. It was just good.
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty. Also good, though I didn't love it quite as much. A quick, beachy read, which I think everyone else knew last summer but I am always late to these things.
Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty. I do like this lady's writing; this was an earlier book of hers and again I liked it fine but it erred on the side of being a bit too light, almost. But still enjoyable with good characters. I plan to read more of her stuff.
All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner. I'm about halfway through this and I like it though the writing isn't blowing me away. It screams movie adaptation. Good summer read.