Never as good as I wanted it to be. There are a few reasons for this: • It was just too long (385 pages). Cutting 50 pages would have really helped. I...moreNever as good as I wanted it to be. There are a few reasons for this: • It was just too long (385 pages). Cutting 50 pages would have really helped. I found myself counting the pages until it ended. • The wasn't any character I could really relate to. They were all petty and mean-spirited, and maybe that was the point of the book, since it takes place in the high-stress world of advertising and during layoffs no less, when everyone is hoping they are not the one cut. • The first person plural narrative, though maybe hard to write, kept me at a distance, and I never felt included, or part of the story. I wish it was just a straight first person. • The setting of the book—the workplace—has been done before, and done better. Just off the top of my head: Office Space (film), The Office (TV), and Slab Rat (novel) by Ted Heller.
But there are things I liked about the book. The author did an excellent job of juggling the many characters, and keeping their personalities distinct and consistent. The humor, though never laugh-out-loud, was real and true to the characters. I never felt like the characters were cliches. The day-to-day drudgery of working in an office environment really comes through here—the bull sessions to kill time, the watching of the clock, the "real" life you have outside of the office on the weekends, the forced closeness you have with your co-workers, the way you can know someone so well, but not really know them at all.
So, a mixed review. Overall, I liked it more than not and give it three stars. (less)
It's 2022 and the old time hippies of California (with a few New Yorkers thrown in) are now back together, this time in an assisted-living home. It's...moreIt's 2022 and the old time hippies of California (with a few New Yorkers thrown in) are now back together, this time in an assisted-living home. It's been a long time since the summer of love, but you wouldn't know it by the antics of the residents: sex, drugs, and rock n' roll still rule the day. The only problem? The woman who runs the joint does so with an iron fist, even to the point of having her boy toy staff doctor over medicate some of the residents to keep them in line. Well, as she soon finds out, these elderly hippies have one last rebellion left in their bones. Sandlin keeps the pace fast with short chapters and lots of dialogue. Funny stuff, but also some good musing on aging. 3 1/2 stars.
By the way, did you know my comic novel INTO THE SUNSET also takes place in an assisted-living home? Much different plot, though, about a young man who disguises himself as an elderly gent to live in one of these communities. :-) (less)
I loved this book. Basic plot: loser kid (Willie) sucks at baseball, has an overprotective mother, tries to avoid an annoying girl (Lizzie), and is lo...moreI loved this book. Basic plot: loser kid (Willie) sucks at baseball, has an overprotective mother, tries to avoid an annoying girl (Lizzie), and is lonely after his best friend moves away. Enter a possibly imaginary blue chimp named Dodger wearing surfer shorts and an eye patch, who may or may not be a genie, and who may or may not help him overcome his problems. Along the way, and under Dodger's watch, things get way worse for Willie before they can get better.
Will Willie improve his baseball skills and help his team win the championship? Will his mother stop fussing over him so much? Will Lizzie ever leave him alone? Will he survive Dodger's plans to improve his life? And more importantly—what will his three wishes be?
The thing that really makes this YA novel pop is the writing. Just before reading Dodger and Me, I read another YA book from the same publisher. Good plot, likable lead characters, but the writing was just awful. But I finished it, and moved on to Dodger. What a breath of fresh air! The writing is engaging, funny, and just plain readable. As a writer myself, I think the best compliment I can give this book is that it is one of those books you come across that you wish you had written first. You don't have to be a young adult to enjoy Dodger and Me. Go get it!(less)
I want to tell you about an ambitious project, a benefit to help a family through a rough time. My good friend Laura Bowman, who is an Atlanta-based p...moreI want to tell you about an ambitious project, a benefit to help a family through a rough time. My good friend Laura Bowman, who is an Atlanta-based painter and artist, has written and illustrated this book to help raise money for her friend Margie, who is suffering from cancer. Always and Everywhere is a children's book featuring Margie and her 2 kids, Claire and John Mark. It assures us that mom is always with us.
The book launch and benefit will be held Thursday, November 20, at Mason Murer Projects, 325 E. Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA. and includes a book signing and silent auction of the original artwork. All proceeds go to the Margie LaSalle Cancer Fund. If you can't make the event but would still like to help the LaSalle's by purchasing a book or bidding on the artwork, please go to the website at Always and Everywhere.(less)
There's a good story hiding somewhere in this book. Unfortunately, I couldn't get past the writing, which was too much in love with itself. Every othe...moreThere's a good story hiding somewhere in this book. Unfortunately, I couldn't get past the writing, which was too much in love with itself. Every other sentence, it seemed, was a flowery poetic metaphor. And Carey is one of those authors who doesn't feel the need to use quotation marks for dialogue. I'm sure this novel will go on to win many awards.(less)
I'm a fan of the short story. Written a few myself. So as a reader, I appreciate the form, and like to sink my teeth into a collection as good as the...moreI'm a fan of the short story. Written a few myself. So as a reader, I appreciate the form, and like to sink my teeth into a collection as good as the latest from Tom Saunders, Roof Whirl Away, which follows his 2004 debut collection Brother, What Strange Place is This?
26 stories in all, Saunders's characters are complex, real, flawed, and people you can either relate to, or feel that you know. And if you don't, you'll know them by the end of the tale. Saunders grabs you from the get go and doesn't let go. Here is the opener to the story "Bonny Craigallen," which leads off the collection:
I don't do the violence any more. I don't use my fists and I haven't touched a gun since the business with Garner. Anger flows through me nowadays, it doesn't get stoppered-up inside, an acid to burn and scar. It's no longer necessary to what I do. But I can still remember what it was like to be a dangerous man. The authority of it. The pride. The adrenaline. To front up another fledgling hard bastard and know you've gone further, oh so much further than he has.
Powerful stuff, and a strong voice.
There are many stand out stories in Roof Whirl Away, like the touching "Lasting," which is loosely based on the life of the 19th century English naturalist and writer Richard Jefferies; or the aging rock star of "Sunburst Guitar," whose prized Hofner guitar is stolen by a teenage street performer; or the hilarious "Big," which features adult star La Hooters McDade (Martha to her friends), who just needs a little R&R, some time off from being the larger than life La Hooters McDade.
I tried to pace myself while reading this book, so I could extend the pleasure as long as possible. But that didn't always work. I'd turn the page and be onto the next story without even realizing it. Roof Whirl Away is one of those books that makes me wish I owned a book store, so I could put it up front and spread the word about it. But I guess I just did! If you are a lover of the short story, do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy.
I recently picked this book up used at my local library for $1. The cover burst advertised that it was nominated for a Man Booker Prize, and the back...moreI recently picked this book up used at my local library for $1. The cover burst advertised that it was nominated for a Man Booker Prize, and the back cover copy boasted that it was an international bestseller that was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.
My thoughts on that after reading the book: What the fuck?
The quick synopsis of the plot is this: Gold-digging Ukrainian immigrant hussy latches on to an elderly Ukrainian widower in England, marries him, and tries to take his money and his house. His two adult daughters (Vera and Nadezhda) try to prevent it from happening. And that's pretty much it. There is an attempt at incorporating many zany characters along the way, and we learn about Vera and Nadezhda's strained relationship, and their relationship with their kooky father. Oh, and every single character is disgusting and hate-able. I almost found myself rooting for the hussy.
Man, this book needed an editor, or at least one more (ruthless) revision. But it was nominated for the Booker, so what the hell do I know? What I do know, though, is this manuscript as is would never have made it out alive if presented to my writer's group.
For instance, the author doesn't seem to have much confidence in her own writing. Written in the first person of the Nadezhda character, the narrative is constantly interrupted by the character's explanation of things in parenthesis. Even during dialogue! And it is a constant interruption. More than a handful of times I just wanted to scream out, "Let the fucking characters talk! Stop interrupting!"
The other no-no that the author does is to somehow allow her lead first-person narrator to know what someone else is thinking. This is after the old man's young wife is treating him particularly bad:
Maybe he would beat her if he could, but he cannot. For the first time he realises how helpless he is. His heart fills with despair.
Oh really? How do you know this, Nadezhda? My writer's group would have taken me to task if I had presented them with this.
As a writer, you are influenced by many authors and countless books. Sometimes you'll read something so good (think John Irving in his prime) that it inspires you, and shows you just how transcending the written word can be. Then you have a novel like this—which also influences you as a writer. By showing you what not to do.
I need to read some Owen Meany now to cleanse myself. I feel so dirty. But what do I know? This thing was a best-selling, award-nominated novel.(less)
Short novella about how the Queen of England becomes sensitive and human after she unexpectedly becomes an avid reader. This has her staff scrambling...moreShort novella about how the Queen of England becomes sensitive and human after she unexpectedly becomes an avid reader. This has her staff scrambling to find a way to stop her new obsession so she can get back to her normal duties and insensitivity. Cute story, though the writing is a bit dry and repetitive, with hardly any dialogue. Would have been better served as a short story.(less)