Bridge of Sighs went well, thank goodness. It took me longer than usual to get into it (I think of Richard Russo books as having a lot of dry humor, but there wasn't any for the whole first slightly-dismal chunk of the book), and I never did feel like I understood the younger Louis's character or why Sarah chose him, and there were a few sections where I thought the author got a bit swept up in the beauty of his writing and let it take over, so that I was thinking, "Okay, yes, lovely writing, well done, now let's get back to the story" or "Is he deliberately writing a character who would actually speak/write this way, or has he forgotten that this is supposed to be a real person talking?" But overall, I liked it very much, there were many good parts, and I was happy with all the nice filling-in-the-gaps details (like where you first see something through one character's eyes, but then later you get more information that spins it a different way). I'd recommend it.
Then I read This is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More, and I liked it well enough to immediately put it on my wish list because I want to OWN it. It's like three decades of psychotherapy, condensed---and better yet, written by someone funny and awesome. There were parts I thought could have stood a little FLESHING OUT: like, in the chapter on sexual issues in a relationship, he tells an anecdote about a woman who didn't want to have sex with her husband, and it turned out that this was because he couldn't stand her and was contemplating suicide to get out of the marriage. Ah ha! Well! I think that's a lesson ANYONE could apply! And the only idea for breaking addictions seems to be to...stop doing them. While he says wayyyy more about it than that, and in fact that's one of the parts I found so mind-blowing, afterward I thought to myself, "Well...but then, if that doesn't work...?" (He covers that too, but it's like "If that doesn't work, maybe you can't.") Or, sometimes I felt like he thought that because something worked for his personality/temperament, it would be the same for everyone. But mostly not, and I've found his ideas very interesting and complicated to think about (the stand-out ones for me are his thoughts on Alcoholics Anonymous and suicide), and I suspect I'll be applying a number of them over the years.
And then I've just finished The Final Testament of the Holy Bible, which I thought was really fun to read, but it will make some people want to stoke up the woodstove. It's about the return of the Messiah, and how he's treated. (Hint: second verse, same as the first.) My main objection is that the new Messiah thinks everyone should have jealousy-free sex with anyone they want to. And of course the whole book is putting the author's opinions into God's mouth and/or pants, so you'd have to think ahead of time about whether you could handle that in a fiction book. My second objection is that the story is told from many points of view, and I thought the author had a lot of trouble making the women sound like women. What I thought was the good part was the neat science-fictiony stuff about someone who isn't a regular human, and the parts about how WOULD the Messiah behave, and what would he have to be like for people come to believe that it was him, and how would the rest of the world react to the situation, and so on. And maybe the women don't quite sound like women, but each of the various storytellers does a very good job telling his/her own story. And there's quite a bit of suspense, because you know it can't end well but you don't know in what direction it's going to go poorly.
Let's do another book giveaway. I'll buy a copy of one of these three books for one randomly-selected commenter. You can still comment without being entered, if you want; if you want to enter, mention in your comment which book you'd want to win a copy of. I'll do the drawing on Thursday the 17th. [Edited to add: I guess it'll have to be U.S. shipping addresses only. I was planning to use my Amazon Prime to ship it for free, but I think that only works in the U.S.]
Update: The winner is Amanda!
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...