This is one of the best presidential biographies I've ever read. While it isn't a play-by-play of the Ford administration and doesn't deeply explore F...moreThis is one of the best presidential biographies I've ever read. While it isn't a play-by-play of the Ford administration and doesn't deeply explore Ford's politics, DeFrank's interviews together make up a fascinating portrait of Ford the man - his friendships, his opinions, his humor. The anecdotal style made the book a very quick read, but illuminating nevertheless.(less)
Oh, John Irving. You have finally, finally run out of new things to say, and so your characters live in this little world where bears run amok, boys g...moreOh, John Irving. You have finally, finally run out of new things to say, and so your characters live in this little world where bears run amok, boys go to prep school and wrestle, single-parent households are abundant, disgruntled Vietnam-era young men defect to Canada, women are either buxom with outsized personalities or prematurely dead free-spirited wraiths, and every sage adult has an oft-repeated and italics-laden catch phrase to impart.
And it's such a shame, too, because this is the best and most cohesive Irving plot in at least 10 years. It has a beautifully paced arc and some fantastic nonlinear exposition. Restaurant kitchens, logging, and Italian Americans in Boston are all meticulously researched and give the whole thing a really fresh feel...until you get to Danny, who's a stock John Wheelwright/John Berry/Homer Wells/Garp character living in Irving's same old universe. He could have been so much more. The classic Irving tropes were comfortable, but in the face of such an interesting premise and dazzling descriptions, they just felt kind of lazy. Without them, it was a five star book, for sure. (less)
Octavia Butler is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. It's so rare to find a book that combines exhausting historical research, a runaway ima...moreOctavia Butler is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. It's so rare to find a book that combines exhausting historical research, a runaway imagination, vivid prose, and deep, visceral emotion quite so well. Is this science fiction? Is it historical fiction? I don't actually care. It's good fiction. The complex relationship between Dana, a young African-American woman from 1976 Los Angeles, and Rufus, her slave-owning white ancestor in 1815 Maryland, is particularly fascinating, alternating between compassion, contempt, and something like codependency. In the scene that bookends the novel, Dana loses a limb to time travel in a way that makes perfect sense but that most other authors and producers who mess around with the space-time continuum never seem to address.
It's very apparent that this is one of Butler's early works in a few spots - the prose is occasionally uneven, and a few of the more potentially fascinating moments are all but glossed over (such as the character of Dana's husband, Kevin, and his reaction to and experience with Dana's time travel). Still, it's better than most everything else I've read this year, excepting only Butler's Parable books.(less)
Although the writing can be a little overly precious at times as the author attempts to pack one-liners into every page of the text, overall it's a th...moreAlthough the writing can be a little overly precious at times as the author attempts to pack one-liners into every page of the text, overall it's a thorough, absurd, hilarious peek into the history, culture, and evolution of karaoke.
As a seasoned karaoke veteran myself, so much of the book rings true for me (particularly his in-depth analysis of what does and does not make a good karaoke song, even if I'd quibble on a couple of counts). I'd challenge anybody to put this book down and not want to immediately go out and find a karaoke bar. (less)
If you are a child of a certain decade, you're going to recognize - and be moved to hysterical laughter by - large chunks of this book (cleverly subve...moreIf you are a child of a certain decade, you're going to recognize - and be moved to hysterical laughter by - large chunks of this book (cleverly subverted to avoid legal troubles from cereal companies, toy manufacturers, Saturday morning cartoon makers, and pretty much anybody who ever made anything for any child in the Western world between 1975 and 1990). But underneath the relentless monsoon of thinly veiled pop-culture references is a classic hero-quest with a lot of heart.
I would have tracked down and read this book even if it hadn't been written by a friend. (less)
I had read and loved Lamb, but had been a little put off by Moore's Douglas Adams-esque tendency to cram a one-liner into just about every sentence of...moreI had read and loved Lamb, but had been a little put off by Moore's Douglas Adams-esque tendency to cram a one-liner into just about every sentence of his books. He's funny, but it was too much funny at once. Bloodsucking Fiends cuts way back on the wordplay and ratchets up the absurd (and you thought Jesus Christ studying Shaolin Kung Fu was a point of absurdity which could not be surpassed). The result is a uniformly fast-paced pageturner with some shockingly impressive points of resolution, tying up loose ends tightly and with aplomb. Tommy and Jody's love story is worth rooting for, and the supporting characters are dark, deeply flawed, and somehow all the more wonderful for it. I've read more than my fair share of vampire novels, and this one is by far the most entertaining. I would love to see Jody put the smack down on Edward Cullen. I'll definitely read more by this author. (less)