What I’ve Been Reading: Snarky Six Word Reviews

I’ve only read a few books since the last time I posted SSWR, but I might as well post some more smart-ass short reviews again!

  • The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher. Surprisingly good. Classy, non-trashy romance.
  • Emily, Alone, by Stewart O’Nan. Independent widow faces fears, with dog.
  • Affinity, by Sarah Waters. Pretty good but other books better.
  • Skinny, by Diana Spechler. Fat camp, lost fathers, found selves.

Of these books, I’d say the two must-reads are Skinny and The Shell Seekers.

Skinny is a quick read – I read it basically in one weekend when I was feeling a bit coldy – but is darker and runs deeper than its fat camp backdrop implies.  I don’t want to give anything away so all I’ll say is: death, blame, guilt, infidelity, eating disorders.  And the characters are really vivid.

Although The Shell Seekers was on the BBC 100 list, I was still surprised at how good it was.  I expected it to be trashier, but it wasn’t at all.  It was extremely well-written and somewhat restrained – quite British in a way – but people still have sex, though mostly off the page.

Basically, it’s about Penelope Keeling, a woman in her 60s who has just had a heart attack.  She’s recovering but her adult children still worry.  At the same time, the children find out that the paintings of their mother’s father, a little-known artist, are suddenly very valuable.  One has just been sold for some exorbitant price, and the children, or at least two of them, get greedy about the works their mother owns – including the titular piece – and what else she might have in the depths of her house.  The book also flashes back to World War II, and Penelope’s youth and a lost love.

I had read another book of Rosamunde Pilcher’s when I was in China – Coming Home.  I remember it was winter and I was bored and had run out of things to read.  I went over to my friend Judy’s house to see if she had anything, and she gave me her well-worn copy.

“It’s kind of trashy,” she told me.

I ate that shit up.  In fact, I still have the copy, back at my parents’ house.  When I go visit in the fall, I may pick it up.

In other book news, I’ve categorized my What I’m Reading Now posts a little differently.  Instead of by genre, I’m categorizing by:

I’m guessing that if you’re looking for a book to read, this would be an easy – or at least easier – way to find one that might be good.  Also I’m highlighting which book I’m reading at the moment on the sidebar.

Speaking of which, it’s currently The Devil’s Rooming House.  The premise sounds great:

The chilling story of the legendary serial killer who inspired the Broadway sensation and classic film Arsenic and Old Lace – and vivid portrait of early twentieth-century New England.

Female serial killer, old New England – seems promising, right?

Well, it started out sort of boring.  From the beginning you know Amy Archer, the female serial killer in question, committed all the murders.  I mean, of course you know.  But I thought there’d be at least some build-up of tension and drama.  Instead, it’s hammered again and again that she did it, supported by tons of facts.  I kind of feel like it’s revving revving revving, but only inching forward.

BUT, maybe I’m just used to novels now, or creative nonfiction like Capote’s In Cold Blood.

Because now that I’m about 100 pages in, it’s gotten better.  Either I’m more used to the style, or it’s picked up the pace and started focusing on specific people, instead of just giving this sweeping overview.  Anyway, I’ll let you know how it turns out.


  1. Hi Ange!

    Congrats on the book! I’m so glad you are self-publishing–I’m buying it now as a show of support!
    Also, if you’re looking for books to review I wanted to let you know about my friend Seth Fried’s brilliant new book of short stories (I edited one of them for One Story and it won a Pushcart Prize–yay us!). It’s The Great Frustration published by Soft Skull–this is his first book from a small publishing company so I want to get it out there. I’m sure I can arrange an author interview if you decide to review his book.

    • thanks so much plue!

      thanks for the book recommendation! i will definitely check out your friend’s book, and may just take you up on that author interview idea! i’ll let you know.

      thanks again, plue, for your support!

  2. […] Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher. Back in May, I wrote about how surprised I was that The Shell Seekers was so good. I expected it to be a cheesy […]