6 Books briefly noted

imagesNot That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham: I have followed her HBO show Girls, a comedy/drama about a group of 20-somethings living in New York, focussing on her alter-ego, Hannah. I have a strong desire to keep up with the younger generation…even though it is a stretch. Lena Dunham has made her mark by creating stories, based on her own life, that would be considered by some to be Too Much Information. In the show she gets up close and personal about her body, her OCD, and the details of her sex life. This memoir is that…lots of memories of her first boyfriends, sex, her fears, her therapists.  Her artist parents are my age, so it’s interesting to hear about their influence. What concerns a 28 year old may not be that interesting to someone my age, but she is a bold and creative artist, and I’ve got to hand it to her. Oh, and she is a feminist.

Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin, David Ritz: This 2014 biography of the Queen of Soul is a mixed bag. He knows Aretha firsthand and spoke to everyone in her family and most of those close to her, but he did not get Aretha’s permission, and she is currently trashing it.  She is famous for being private and for telling her own story through rose-colored glasses. Ritz raves about her talent and accomplishments, but dishes the dirt about her sex life and marriage problems, competitive attitude with other women, and problems with alcoholism. Some of the best insights come from Jerry Wexler, her brilliant producer from the 60s. Aretha is a musical genius, not just an gifted singer. She wrote and arranged many of her songs, like Think, Dr. Feelgood and the masterful album Spirit in the Dark, where she accompanies herself on piano throughout. Her politics have always been liberal, but in the 60’s-early 70s she was at times ‘militant’; she raised the money to get Angela Davis out of jail for being a Communist at UCLA…my alma mater.

You Should Have Known, Jean Hanff: I should have known that this literary mystery about a female therapist who wrote a book called You Should Have Known, about why relationships fail, was going to be a failure. The first clue: the book within the book is about “he’s not right for you”, telling women that they should be able to see right away that they are choosing someone who is not right for them. Who can do that? Well, the mystery takes you on a fairly interesting, but generally predictable trip about her and her husband, and how he turns out to be someone who is a complete stranger to her.

Florence Gordon, Brian Morton: This is a novel about a 75 year old famous feminist who wants to be left alone and who is extremely cranky. There isn’t much of a plot, and the character of Florence left me cold.

The Arsonist, Sue Miller: This novel has a compelling plot on many levels: Who is setting all those houses on fire, and why? What will Frankie, the protagonist, decide to do with her life, and what will happen between her and Bud? What will happen with Frankie’s parents, Sylvia and Alfie, now that Alfie’s dementia has been diagnosed? Will 40-something Frankie stay home this time or return to her peace corps type of job in Africa? The first 200 or so pages were engrossing, but in the end I was left feeling empty. Because Miller had so meaningfully parsed Frankie’s, Sylvia’s, and Bud’s thoughts, I had expected a more meaningful ending. I was disappointed. Maybe I have read too many murder mysteries, but this plot was unsatisfying.

The Long Way Home, Louise Penny: Sorry to be Debbie Downer the book reviewer, but Louise Penny has been my favorite mystery writer of the past 5 years, unless you also consider Alexander McCall Smith to be a mystery writer…then he is number one, BUT this book disappointed. Her novels always involve the magnificent Chief Inspector Gamache and the small circle of residents living in the tiny French Canadian village, Three Pines. This story was not so much a mystery, but a search for a missing former husband and his troubled psyche as seen through his art. It just doesn’t go anywhere.

Hopefully I will find a book soon that I really like. I’ll let you know.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rickibo@aol.com
    Nov 12, 2014 @ 15:59:01

    Great to see you back reviewing again. BTW, I went to your “about me” link and then revisited your psychology today page. absolutely excellent!!! xoxo Ricki

    Reply

  2. Melinda Basker
    Nov 12, 2014 @ 20:09:48

    Phern, I read all your reviews. More books for me to avoid.

    Love,

    Melinda

    ________________________________

    Reply

    • phernhunt
      Nov 12, 2014 @ 20:15:56

      Hopefully I will be reading something soon that I can really recommend. I just read that Lisa Lutz comes out with her new book, Spellman Six in May…but that’s a long time to wait.

      Reply

  3. phernhunt
    Nov 12, 2014 @ 20:19:44

    Oops. I was wrong…it’s not a Spellman mystery. That book already came out as The Last Word, and we read it. The next book is called How to Start a Fire, but it is a story collection/memoir about her three freinds.

    Reply

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