Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver
I have always enjoyed Barbara Kingsolver books. I think I've read them all now, and if you know her style, then you won't be surprised by this one. It takes place in Appalachia, and the main character is a woman with two young kids who feels trapped by her marriage and motherhood and desperately wants to escape. She discovers an enormous colony of monarch butterflies in the woods behind her farm, which brings publicity and scientists. They begin researching why the butterflies landed there, since they usually spend their winters in Mexico. It turns into a rather long lecture about the reality and dangers of global warming, and while I agree with the message, the story ended up getting a little lost as a result. Overall, it's good, and I do still love the way Barbara Kingsolver can craft a gorgeous sentence, but it didn't move me as much as some of her other books.
This book chronicles Steve Martin's career as a stand-up comedian. He started work as a ten-year-old, selling guidebooks at Disneyland. The book describes how he learned magic and comedy, and how he honed his craft and perfected his routine over many years. That alone is fascinating, even in the hands of a boring writer. But Steve Martin is a good writer, too. He describes his relationships with his parents and sister, his girlfriends, and his bouts of depression with emotion and honesty, as though he's telling his tale to a friend. This time of his life occurs during the 1970s, and he also writes about some of the decade's major events and cultural milestones from his perspective. I really enjoyed this book.
Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles
I loved this book too. As in, I stayed up way too late for several nights in order to finish it. It's the author's first novel, and perhaps you can tell at times, but I liked that he seemed to try hard to perfect the writing. The setting is New York City in the late 1930s, and the main character is a 25-year-old working-class girl. The characters are interesting, and the story ends up evolving in unexpected ways. I also loved all the literary references, the descriptions of the city at that time, and even the jazz. Highly recommend.