The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
If you’re looking for something different, I’ve certainly never experienced anything quite like The Lover’s Dictionary which tells a real and at times fraught love story using dictionary definitions. What’s more, the story is ordered alphabetically rather than chronologically, but segments are always placed thoughtfully and often poignantly in sequence.
Nothing can explain this unusual idea quite like simply picking up the book and seeing for yourself – but I guarantee it will then be difficult to put down. The short definitions – rarely over a page long each – mean it’s spectacularly easy to just keep reading ‘one more’.
But what actually makes this book so special is its beautiful use of language and constantly exquisite yet realistic descriptions of relationships.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Surely the most hyped self-help/non-fiction book ever, Eat Pray Love’s not really my kind of thing but I saw it in the library and thought it would make a change – sadly my expectations were confirmed.
The book follows Liz Gilbert after a messy divorce as she takes some time out to experience pleasure and prayer – in Italy, India and Bali. My biggest problem with the book was not enough time helping the reader experience these beautiful places and what such a trip can do for you, and too much whining about divorce and men. There was also too much God and meditation talk for me, but I understand the relevance and importance of those subjects in the story being told here.
Basically I wanted more from the interesting characters we glimpsed (Richard from Texas, Liz’s Italian language partner), more of the amazing places she experienced, and less repetitive internal moaning. Sorry.
House Rules by Jodi Picoult
I’ve read some of Jodi Picoult’s books in the past, and they certainly all seem to carry the same formula with a high stakes family drama and a surprise at the end, to put it simply. My Sister’s Keeper is generally placed at the top of her prolific pile, but I did enjoy House Rules myself – if only for my penchant for a courtroom drama.
House Rules focuses on Jacob, an 18-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome, and goes into detail about the effect this has on his life. In particular, we follow how this contributes to and affects his being arrested and charged with the murder of his tutor, Jess.
Although at times the book is too heavy and repetitive on the ins and outs of Jacob’s condition – we’re told often, for example, about his need for order and struggles in social situations, among other things – it’s generally fascinating and enlightening for those who haven’t experienced Asperger’s in such a direct way. I’d be interested to hear what those who are on the spectrum think of Jacob’s portrayal, but it seems well researched if nothing else.
Elsewhere, I enjoyed the book’s focus on the ins and outs of the legal system and the murder trial, plus the usual Picoult way of changing point of view each chapter, enabling the reader to be teased over what each main character knows. Of the Picoult books I’ve read so far, this one’s definitely up there.
One Perfect Summer by Paige Toon
This one is a great holiday book, easy to read and an enjoyable world in which to spend a few hours straight. I read it over several stages of a long plane journey and it filled the time nicely.
One Perfect Summer follows Alice, aged 18 and on holiday in Dorset with her parents before going off to university, as she falls in love with bartender Joe over a blissful two months. It actually gets quite dark, with Joe’s family life a gritty contrast to their whirlwind romance, and then it’s all abruptly over and Alice spends most of her first year in Cambridge moping around.
Thankfully we mostly miss that bit (it does get irritating when she later waxes lyrical about Joe for too long) and pick up as she begins to find new things to live for in Cambridge – including, slightly later, a new man. Lucas is intriguing and sexy but eventually ends up being rather controlling and creepy. Although it is generally predictable, One Perfect Summer hits the mark for a holiday chick lit.