20 books and 20 lbs (week 26): Can I have progress, maybe?

After the complete exhaustion brought on by reading Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children”, getting through books 5 and 6 on my list was a complete breeze. In seemingly no time, I finished off both “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson (aka “The Bloggess”) and “Crash” by Lisa McMann.

Book #5: “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson

I’ll admit that I wasn’t a huge reader of Jenny’s blog, mostly because I don’t find myself having the time to keep up with all of the blogs that I’d like to read. So, there were some things about Jenny’s life, like Beyonce-the-metal-chicken, where I was just completely out of it and didn’t get the joke. And then I read her book. And not only did I get the joke: I couldn’t stop laughing.

Reading her autobiography, you get the sense of someone who has an incredibly eccentric sense of humor and universal appeal. I know this sounds like a complete contradiction in terms, but Lawson’s ability to make you get why the jokes are funny, to follow along (even when rolling your eyes, like her long “suffering” husband, Victor), to feel like you want to be as cool and quirky as she is. Of course, the complete irony is that Lawson is typically and rather famously paralyzed by attention in social circumstances; as much as she wants people to laugh with her, she’s thrown completely by being surrounded by so many people who worship every word that drips from her fingertips.

Lawson’s story begins with her youth in the uber-rural town of Wall, Texas, and it continues as she meets Victor and they settle into their version of married, suburban life. You see her struggle to find her voice, sometimes reveling in her quirkiness and other times being heavily concerned that others will shun her for it. Of course, these days she need have no fears: the ones who don’t get the jokes can pound sand as they get trampled by the hordes of her adoring fans. And based on how completely enjoyable her book was, and how much I really think I fell in love with her through reading it, you can count me in, too.

Book #6: “Crash” by Lisa McMann

Just a few months after this book was released, it happened to be offered up free at our movie theater the night my girlfriend up the street and I went for a “Moms Night Out”. Always open to trying a new book, especially one that’s free, I picked up a copy and headed for my seat. Thanks to Rushdie, it would be a few months before I’d pick this up. Once I picked it up, though, I tore through it at a remarkable pace – something like 20-30+ pages per night. It’s an incredibly fast read, and that was a really nice change of pace after the slog Rushdie had been.

“Crash” is the first of four books in the “Visions” quartet McMann plans to publish. It centers on a teenager named Jules who is plagued by continuing visions of a crash that will kill her onetime love, along with eight others. Jules questions her own sanity as she tries to unravel the mystery that’s racking her brain and taking over billboards, TV screens, and any other display within range of her eyeballs. At the same time, she struggles to understand her father’s mental illness – his hoarding, the crippling depression, and his frequent inability to deal with anyone else – all while Jules, her mother, and her siblings slave away keeping the family pizza shop afloat.

This is definitely a book squarely aimed at the Young Adult (YA) crowd, and I think this is a good example of how YA doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality in the telling of a story. McMann’s writing is definitely targeted to a less mature audience in terms of how Jules’ voice comes across to the reader, yet the book is still appealing to adults who are interested in mysteries, things outside the normal framework of reality, and psychology.

The only area where I thought the book went slightly off the deep end was at the ending of the book. Unfortunately, there’s no way to explain what I mean without giving it all away…so I’ll just say this: it’s not that she sped things up too much at the end, it’s that the ending seemed too much like what you’d hope for, which means that it’s less realistic. Or perhaps I’m just jaded? Perhaps I’ve been reading too much George R. R. Martin recently, but when things turn out how you wanted, I get suspicious.

I would recommend both books – both of them are refreshing reads, in their own way, and both have appeal well beyond a narrow band of readers.

Book #7 is Neil Gaiman’s latest: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”. I can’t explain how excited I am to have gotten a signed copy. Sure, it seems like Gaiman’s been accommodating enough to sign any book of his that’s set in front of him (which may make him a bit of a rarity in the literary world), but I cherish paper books and the notion that I have a signed first edition of a book that’s surely going to top the bestseller lists just makes my heart swell up (in a good way). I’ll post a review of this book shortly.

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And apropos of nothing, at least related to books, I continue to work on my weight and hope to continue my progress before I punch the ticket on the end of the first half of the year. I probably shouldn’t get greedy – as of Sunday’s weigh-in, I’m down 9lbs from where I was at the start of the year! I don’t know that I’ll get to the halfway point by my final weigh-in of June, but I still consider 9lbs to be quite the victory.

Thanks to the bat-related shenanigans, exercising lately has been nearly impossible; it’s been hard enough just sitting in meetings at work without being sent to the hospital with a suspected case of tuberculosis. Between that and other stuff going on, there just hasn’t been the time. Or the motivation. Or the energy. So, I have to work on all that too – the weight won’t come off on its own and I fully get that. Back to the drawing board again, I suppose…

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