February is here so it’s time to update Thoughts From the Back with my January reads. I read four books last month, so Goodreads says I’m on target for my 52 books in 2013. Woo-hoo.
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich is about several generations of neighbors living in an Indian reservation and a small town in North Dakota. The book opens with the brutal murder of an entire family. I thought this meant a mystery that needed to be solved within the novel’s pages, but it felt more like an aside to the stories and histories of the many, many characters. The writing was solid, but I felt disconnected from the characters and plot lines. I’d pick up another Erdrich book without hesitation, but I’d be hoping for a different structure to the novel.
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis is a fun read for kids, but shouldn’t bother to make any adult’s reading list. Timmy is an 11-year old who sort of has his own private detective agency. He has an assistant, a polar bear named Total; transportation, the Failure Mobile, aka his mom’s Segway; and a rival agency headed by his arch-nemesis. It’s goofy and silly and Pastis is the creator of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine, so that’s pretty much all you need to know.
Conquistadora by Esmeralda Santiago is the story of a sugar plantation in Puerto Rico in the 1800’s. Ana was never close to her parents in Spain, but feels more connected to some of her Conquistador ancestors who traveled to the New World. When she marries and her new husband inherits property in Puerto Rico, she convinces him and his brother to take on the management of a sugar plantation. The story was OK, my book club described in as a bit Harlequin Romance-y at times, but the history was fascinating,. I felt like I learned a lot about the practices of slavery throughout the Caribbean and sugarcane farming.
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne was the most pleasant surprise of this month’s reads. The story takes place during the last few months of the concert tour of 11-year pop star Jonny Valentine. Jonny’s mother, Jane, is his manager and has control over every aspect of his public and private life. I would have thought the book held no appeal for me, aside from the really pretty, shiny, silver cover, but I really enjoyed this one. Told by Jonny, Wayne creates the perfect blend of budding superstar diva and 11-year old boy caught in an all adult world where his only constant companion is his video game system. I thought the side story of Jonny surreptitiously searching for his absent father really helps humanize him.
So that’s what I’ve been reading. I had a request for another reading challenge, but I’m not feeling it quite yet. Stay tuned and keep reading.