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Reviewletts: The Books I Read on Vacation

One of the best parts of my vacation was getting a bunch of uninterrupted time to read late in the trip when I got to my parent’s cabin. Because I was reading by the lake (and reading while drinking a few gin and tonics), I don’t have a lot of specifics to share. So, reviewletts it is!

Lexicon by Max Barry

lexicon by max barry coverI bought Lexicon as a special treat to myself after Book Rioter Rebecca Schinsky raved about it, calling the book “X-Men plus The Magicians with a side of Nick Harkaway.” It was the perfect, rolicking, free-wheeling and smart sort of book to start out a vacation with. I wish I had been paying a little closer attention to the beginning of the story so I had a firmer grasp of the timeline (the book plays with time, but not in a way that became obvious to me until mid-way through), but overall I can’t recommend this one highly enough. I can definitely imagine re-reading it sometime soon because it was that much fun.

She Matters by Susanna Sonnenberg

she matters by susanna sonnenbergI snagged a copy of She Matters at a Half Price Books in Madison and immediately started reading it. A big part of my vacation was seeing old friends, so I was feeling some inkling to read more about friendship. The book ended up being a little different than I expected; rather than a collection of essays on friendship, She Matters really is a memoir through friendships — a story about the author framed by the friends she’s made and lost along the way. Sonnenberg writes beautifully and I think there are some universal ideas to pull from this one, but it was also a little more personal than I thought it might be.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

life after life by kate atkinson cover
Life After Life was my big, exciting book for this trip. I’ve been saving it since March, just waiting for the first full day I had sitting on a lawn chair by the lake. And my goodness, it was as perfect in that moment as I thought it would be. I love books that play with time or take a particular not-quite-realistic concept — in this case, that Ursula Todd is born, dies, and is reborn countless times throughout her life — and go at it with style. This one made me think (and flip back and forth to try and dig into what was happening), but not too hard. If you like books that are a little high-concept, I definitely recommend this one.

The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey

the boys of winter by wayne coffey coverAfter the beast that was Life After Life I wanted something short and entirely different. I’d picked up a copy of The Boys of Winter at one of my favorite bookstores in Madison, A Room of One’s Own, after one of my new favorite authors, Daniel Jame Brown, recommended it in a list of books about the Olympics over at Kathy’s blog. The book focuses specifically on the February 22, 1980 game between the United States and the Soviet Union, but uses it to tell a bigger story about the players and politics connected to the game. I had a little bit of an issue with the structure — if felt a little unnecessarily complicated to jump back and forth in time as much as the book did — but overall enjoyed it quite a bit.

I also finished the audio book of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (narrated by Lauren Fortgang), but I’m going to save any review of that one for when I finish the second book in the series, Siege and Storm.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jeff July 11, 2013, 7:03 am

    Since you liked Life After Life, I would also recommend Replay by Ken Grimwood.

    • Kim July 16, 2013, 6:34 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll have to look for that one.

  • Andrew Blackman July 11, 2013, 8:01 am

    Sounds like a good selection of books for your vacation, Kim! I’ve read a lot about Life After Life recently. It got a pretty bad review in London Review of Books, but I’ve seen positive responses elsewhere. Might give it a try! Belated happy birthday 🙂

    • Kim July 16, 2013, 6:35 pm

      I’m glad I waited until all the buzz about the book — gushing and bad — died down to read it. I think I got to enjoy it a little more that way.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) July 11, 2013, 8:48 am

    You’ve made me very curious about Lexicon. If I get the chance to read it, I’ll try to pay close attention at the beginning of the book.

  • Andi @ Estella's Revenge July 11, 2013, 10:35 am

    Looks like some wonderful vacation reading. I’m even more excited to get back to Life After Life for my book club now.

  • Nikki Steele July 11, 2013, 12:37 pm

    Great mix of vacation reading!

  • Rebecca @ Love at First Book July 11, 2013, 2:37 pm

    Love the short reviews! They’re great for a quickie overview! 🙂

  • Susan July 11, 2013, 2:52 pm

    Lexicon looks interesting! I just checked, my library doesn’t have it yet. I’ve been hearing several good reviews of LIfe after Life, so glad yours is joining what could be a good book to read. My library does have this one, but already 765 people ahead of me. *sigh* I really want to read it now! lol

    I liked your vignettes, I was thinking of doing the same thing for some of the books I read this spring. Lovely way to get reviews in without going into depth all the time. Glad you had time to read on your vacation too, that’s the best, isn’t it?

    • Kim July 16, 2013, 6:36 pm

      Wow! 765 people! That’s crazy. How long does it take to get through a list like that?

  • Shannon @ River City Reading July 11, 2013, 5:35 pm

    I really enjoyed Lexicon, too, and think it’s a perfect vacation book. I’ll have to check you off as yet another one in the Life After Life suggestion box! I have beautiful, brand new copy here…just have to get to it!

  • Teresa July 11, 2013, 6:20 pm

    I’m glad to see you liked Life After Life. I’m something of an Atkinson fan-girl, so my judgment can hardly be trusted when it comes to her books, but I thought it was wonderful.

    Have you read The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. It’s similar in some ways, especially in the descriptions of the Blitz and having a high-concept approach to time.

    • Kim July 16, 2013, 6:37 pm

      I can easily see myself becoming an Atkinson fan girl. Her prose was really beautiful. Suggestions on which book to read next?

      I haven’t read The Night Watch, but I didn’t love another Sarah Waters book I read (I cannot remember the title…) so I’m less enthused about picking her up. But perhaps!

      • Teresa July 18, 2013, 9:28 pm

        All her books are different from each other (if you consider her crime series as one book), so it’s hard to say. I think Behind the Scenes at the Museum is your best bet. It’s more straight historical fiction, and the narrator is wonderful.

        • Kim July 21, 2013, 4:11 pm

          Cool, I will look for that one! I’m also interested in the crime series, but I can never seem to find the first one at the library.

  • Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm July 12, 2013, 12:08 am


    Sheesh. 😉

  • Jennifer July 12, 2013, 6:35 pm

    Uninterrupted vacation reading time is the BEST! I’m glad you enjoyed Life After Life 🙂 I’m going to have to look into Lexicon for sure.

  • Diane@BibliophilebytheSea July 12, 2013, 7:34 pm

    Sounds like you had some great reading time. Life After Life is on my list as well – glad u liked it.

  • Fyrefly July 13, 2013, 9:33 am

    I’ve heard so many good things about Life After Life. I don’t think I ever would have picked it up on my own – the cover is pretty, but doesn’t really intrigue me – but it sounds fascinating.

    • Kim July 16, 2013, 6:37 pm

      Yeah, the cover is a little bit dull, all things considered. But there’s a lot in the book — don’t let the cover fool you!

  • Woohoo, reading with a G&T is the best. I’d like to do more of that myself.

    • Kim July 16, 2013, 6:37 pm

      I love a good G&T. They’re my weakness 🙂

  • Charlie July 15, 2013, 2:28 pm

    Oo, Lexicon sounds good. I thought differently about Life After Life, but regardless I nodded my head when you spoke of the shorter next book. It really was so long, a shorter book was necessary!

  • Joanna July 16, 2013, 1:54 pm

    Oh my gods, Life after Life sounds PERFECT for me right now. It’ll be my next read, I think. Your vacation sounds amazing, I’d love a few days of uninterrupted reading time!

  • Athira July 16, 2013, 6:28 pm

    I am totally going to get my hands on Lexicon. I like that description of “X-Men plus The Magicians with a side of Nick Harkaway”.

    • Kim July 16, 2013, 6:38 pm

      Isn’t that great? Rebecca is a smart lady.

  • carol July 17, 2013, 3:40 pm

    I’m thinking about picking up The Boys of Winter. I think it might be one my husband and I could both enjoy.

    • Kim July 21, 2013, 4:12 pm

      It’s a great piece of sports writing, if that’s up your alley.

  • Ruth Seeley December 8, 2013, 2:27 am

    Kim, since you loved Life After Life (I did NOT want that book to end, I wanted more and more and more variations on Ursula’s life), I’d recommended Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal. A brilliant first novel, I thought, but then I’m drawn to what used to be called ‘experimental fiction’ – even if it doesn’t always work. Have just dipped my toe into her second, Governor General award-winning The Luminaries, which promises to be very very different. Which is another thing I appreciate about writers – taking chances. And if you haven’t read Tracy Chevalier’s Falling Angels – well – multiple narrators but a linear timeline – excellent character development device and something quite profound about that, since we are, after all, all the stars of our own movies. Because, you know, we all need more to add to the ‘to be read’ pile.