Sunday, September 04, 2016

August 2

August novels we've covered; let's do August short stuff.  I know I promised you a real review of Ninefox Gambit; Wednesday, I promise.

Here we go!

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency, by Daniel Pinkwater, was the book that Sophie reads to her chickens in Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, which Adam and I adored.  We liked the title, so we gave this book a try.  It's a tiny bit dated, and more than a tiny bit odd, but it's also pretty adorable.

A kid named Arthur is sent to buy the Thanksgiving turkey, but can't find one anywhere.  He ends up accidentally acquiring a 266 pound chicken named Henrietta as a pet.  He brings her home and teaches her tricks, but she proves to be too much trouble and his parents insist he get rid of her.  This is not as easy as it sounds.

Couch Fiction: A Graphic Tale of Psychotherapy, by Philippa Perry and illustrated by Junko Graat, is...odd.  First of all, "graphic" in the title refers to the fact that it's a graphic novel, although I guess there a couple of moments where we see what's in the characters' minds and it's a little less than family friendly.  Anyway, it's basically an account of the therapeutic relationship between Pat, the therapist, and James, her patient.  It shows us chunks of James's therapy and there are annotations that comment on what's happening in the encounter--places where Pat fumbles, why she makes the choices she does, and what's going on behind James's replies.

Like so many books by psychologists about how their chosen forms of therapy work, it's got a heavy-handed faith in its system.  Unsurprisingly, James's stealing compulsion is tied to his childhood relationship with his wealthy but distant parents. It turns out this is also tied into his relationship with his girlfriend.  These realizations solve all of James's problems.

I actually very much appreciated the outline of what the sessions actually looked like, and the notes on what the therapist is thinking as she steers the conversation. And I'm sure this is what successful psychotherapy often looks like.  I guess I'm just really not into psychoanalysis as a solution to many concrete psychological problems, and I'm skeptical about the enthusiasm this book has for its efficacy.  

The Jewel and Her Lapidary is a novella by Fran Wilder and another one that I already posted about. The short story is that I really liked it even though I sometimes found it hard to connect with.

I Work at a Public Library, by Gina Sheridan, is a blog-to-book that was an unsurprisingly quick read.  It's an assortment of strange and sometimes charming stories of wacky things that happen at the library, but when read all at once in book form, but as separate anecdotes without context (as in blog form), it actually came off as a bit abrasive.

Many of the stories are adorable, and some are outright hilarious (as when a man dismissively calls the teen section where they keep the sexy vampire books and his friend looks at him and says "do you even read, man?"). There are grateful patrons and cute kids and wacky situations, which is just what I'm here for.

But there are a lot of stories that are about elderly people who are confused about the computer, or people who clearly have special needs who as confusing questions and get agitated.  It's the kind of thing that I can absolutely see writing down in your blog--because it just happened to you, and you're shook up, and it's fine but you're kind of like "what is this job I have!?" But when you put them in the book, it feels like you're rolling your eyes at those people in kind of a snide way, and that's the aftertaste that this book left for me.  It's a shame, really, because dang if I don't think this is a great idea for a book.  I think I want more of a memoir format for this kind of thing.

Finally, there's The Governess Affair, Courtney Milan's prequel novella to the Brothers Sinister series, which I am lapping up with a spoon. This is about how Oliver's parents met, and Serena's stubbornness in the face of overwhelming odds and Hugo's ambition and hidden humor are just so charming and irresistible.  It was a short book, and that worked fine; Milan's B stories are delightful, and every character gets their full due of nuance and depth.  I love that these characters whom we meet many years later as the parents of protagonists in other stories feel perfectly natural in their own tale.

And that's August.  I feel a great burden lifted now that I've shared it with you, dear readers.  I don't know that I'll do a lot of monthly wrap-ups, but I do feel like a lot of my books have been getting short shrift lately.  I'm being too uptight a blogger.  I need to cut loose a little!  Blog from the middle!  Be less analytical! Let my hair down!  Let's kick September up a notch, shall we?

1 comment:

Lianna Williamson said...

Sample size of one, but I really like and appreciate your "round-up" reviews. I don't think you should feel obligated to do an in-depth review of every book you feel like blogging about.