“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”
― William Faulkner
In the spirit of Mr. Faulkner, I try to read everything. I try to write everything too, and I throw most of it out the window in this effort. I have a Kindle full of unread books – and a stack of paper books next to my bed of course. I thought I would try an experiment while on vacation recently, and did not plan out my reading (shocking) but just thought I would read what I felt like. This is new, I am a planner, as evidenced by the fact that I am finally reading that Salman Rushdie novel right now and I refuse to stop or skip ahead even though, I swear to you, not one thing has happened in 200 pages. So for Italy, I just got on a plane and trusted that I would find what I was looking for when I needed it.
Turns out I was looking for fun. Here are the three books I allowed into my brain to wind me down at night or while laying around at the pool or while experiencing intense boredom on an airplane:
- Preschooled by Anna Lefler
This is exactly what you think it is. This book was not written for me, but I managed to enjoy it anyway. The titular preschool is a charming but exclusive establishment in Santa Monica, where you better have your child’s name on a waiting list way before they are conceived or else you are out of luck. And once admitted, the parents begin an endless cycle of trying to outdo each other with fund raising and volunteering in order to stay on the good side of the Miss Trunchbull-like headmistress. Preschooled is basically the story of three different people; Justine, a new parent who is just doing her best keeping her marriage afloat and her child alive when she discovers that a terrible ex-boyfriend is the father of a child in her daughter’s class. Naturally they get pushed together in many unnatural and unrealistic situations, testing relationships everywhere. Then there is Ruben, a stay at home dad / writer trying to use the school connections to get his career on track but finding that he loves this new role. Finally we have Margaret, the owner of the school, who terrifies everyone but is actually just trying to keep it together amidst a divorce and some serious money problems. You’ll probably laugh, you will not cry, you will wonder why you are reading this when you have no kids, but then you’ll remember you are on vacation and who cares.
Grade – B-
- The Good Widow by Lisa Steinke and Liz Fenton
Now for a thriller(ish) that won’t scare you. The Good Widow is schoolteacher Jacks Morales, who is having trouble in her marriage when she gets a visit from the police who inform her that her husband has been killed in a car accident in Hawaii. This is particularly bad news considering that he was supposed to be in Kansas on a business trip. She then finds out that he was not alone, but was with a beautiful young woman, and subsequent digging reveals that they had been having an affair for months. Having to grieve your husband publicly while hating his stupid guts is probably a pretty tough thing to do, but Jacks manages it mostly. Until the day that this woman’s fiancée, Nick, shows up (there’s a lot of showing up) and asks her if she would like to go to Hawaii with him to try to retrace their last days together. Why? I never got totally clear on that, honestly, what was the utility of that? Once in Hawaii, Jacks and Nick grieve and dig around and then there are some twists and turns that didn’t entirely make sense but I enjoyed it anyway because I was on vacation and anxious anger at cheaters is always fun.
Grade – B-
- Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer
First let me say that I dig Liza Palmer, I’ve read a few of her novels and they are always light but smart and interesting. I would recommend A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents and Seeing Me Naked a bit more than this new one, but it was definitely readable fun. As I’ve well documented, I sometimes have a hard time getting past character names and I’m sorry to tell you that the main character’s name in Nowhere But Home was… wait for it… Queen Elizabeth Wake. Was she a queen, you are now asking yourself? No, the answer is. Queen Elizabeth – she goes by Queenie even though Elizabeth, Liz, Lizzie, Eliza, and Beth would be actual normal things to do in this situation, is from North Star, Texas and she is a hot mess. After being fired from her chef job for yelling at someone for putting ketchup on eggs (reasonable), she returns home to her terrible home town to see her lovely sister and nephew and confront the love of her life Everett who married (and divorced) another woman, forcing her to leave town the first time. She then also gets a new job cooking last meals for death row inmates (what?) and eventually has to grapple with cooking for the woman who is being executed for murdering her mother. No, it’s not your imagination – that took a huge, weird, dark turn. Yikes.
Grade – C
I am home and back to reading books I did not buy from the $1.99 Kindle Deal of the Day email, so more normal-ish reviews to come!