Rounding up, again, from a 2 1/2 star rating. Oodles of unpleasant things happening in this town, semi-oblivious parents (that is, if they're not the...moreRounding up, again, from a 2 1/2 star rating. Oodles of unpleasant things happening in this town, semi-oblivious parents (that is, if they're not the abusers themselves), and a high creep factor. The newbie to town, supposedly from "up North" (book is set outside Atlanta, GA) who called a soda "Co-Cola" was a decidedly false note. (Of course, perhaps it was an early clue to the fact that this individual was misrepresenting herself?) The Lena Adams situation is definitely no-fun, and I hope she manages to dig herself out (vs. drinking herself further in). It's definitely a wait-and-see series.(less)
I'm rounding up from 2 1/2 stars as this is a new series which came highly rated by both my mother and sister, so I really want to enjoy them. The lev...moreI'm rounding up from 2 1/2 stars as this is a new series which came highly rated by both my mother and sister, so I really want to enjoy them. The level of violence against women as well as the overwhelming sense of victimization here (admittedly, perhaps I'm overinterpreting), suggests to me that this series may be a bit of a long haul--esp. as I received 12 of them for the holidays. That said, I'll keep an open mind and keep reading. (less)
Apostoloff is a tough book to classify. It's a quirky sibling roadtrip, something extremely writerly (i.e., it's both literary and requires an investm...moreApostoloff is a tough book to classify. It's a quirky sibling roadtrip, something extremely writerly (i.e., it's both literary and requires an investment of effort on the part of its readers), as well as parallel memorials to both an individual and a nation. Specifically, the book is narrated by the younger of two adult sisters who are participating in a pilgrimage of sorts in which 19 Bulgarians who emigrated to Germany at the end of World War II and subsequently died there have been returned to post-Communist Bulgaria and reburied there. The women's father, distant while alive and a suicide by age 43, was largely present in their lives as an absent figure. Their mother, too, was not particularly nurturing, and the sisters appear remarkably empathetic to one another's preferences, foibles, and emotional needs than their upbringing might have otherwise suggested.
Our narrator takes up residence in the back seat of a car commandeered by driver/tourguide Rumen Apostoloff, for whom the book is titled. Her slightly older sister, in contrast, occupies the passenger seat for most of the journey. Whereas Aspostoloff exhibits national pride at every turn, our narrator is his counterpoint in that she has little positive to say about either the country or its culture. Her ruminations are often scathingly sarcastic, but no less amusing for all that. The trip, more of a pilgrimage actually, consists of side trips off of a larger cortege of limousines to prearranged cities, hotels and eateries, all underwritten by the last survivor of the 20 emigres to Germany, a man named Alexander Tabakoff.
The book was quite interesting. The breadth of subjects covered at meals by these travelers was remarkable. The ruminations on art, life, family, nationhood, and redemption were intense. On balance, I felt it took me far longer to complete Apostoloff than it should have. I attribute this to the amount of concentration and effort required to distinguish the descriptions from the flashbacks from the tangents. That said, I read the book in translation and cannot but wonder how different the experience might have been reading it in its original German text. That is, I strongly suspect that this already interesting book was probably more successful as a German narrative. In any case, this is a book that merits a reader's A-game and isn't the sort of fare you gobble up late at night in an exhausted state.(less)
The Biology of Luck is one of those rare books that is so cleverly conceived and well written, that it doesn't detract from my enjoyment when I don't...moreThe Biology of Luck is one of those rare books that is so cleverly conceived and well written, that it doesn't detract from my enjoyment when I don't really care for its major characters. Unfolding across the course of a sticky June day in New York City, the novel consists of two parts: (1) the meta-novel that one is holding and (2) a manuscript contained within its pages bearing that same title that the ineffectual Larry Bloom has submitted to publishers Stroop & Stone. The latter is a story Bloom has written for the as-yet unrequited love of his life, Starshine, an intensely self-absorbed twenty-something who becomes increasingly unlikable/unsympathetic the more we get to know her over the course of the book.
Bloom sets things in motion so that he is to meet Starshine for dinner at his favorite Italian restaurant where he will declare his love for her upon completion of the novel in which he recounts a day in her life. And what a day it was, too! Frustrations large and small, dead bodies, the sadness of a beloved Aunt left to die in what she aptly refers to as "the glue factory," the emotional and financial pressures faced by young people making their way--some by earning it, others by relying on their good looks and cleavage--are part and parcel of the parallel narratives.
In my estimation, the most effective aspect of the novel were the truly wacky and well-rendered secondary characters (esp. Bone) and the snippets of NYC cultural and literary history that lace the narrative. It comes as no surprise that in addition to his many other talents, including being a psychiatrist and accomplished author, Appel is also a licensed New York City sightseeing guide.
All told, I found this to be an altogether surprisingly fun read with a delightfully-enigmatic ending, although I'm reasonably confident that I understand Starshine's response. I'd recommend The Biology of Luck to other readers--and most definitely to New Yorkers. (less)
As a mystery fan, I had great hopes that Bury This would successfully weave together the strands of (1) local law enforcement's revisiting a quarter-c...moreAs a mystery fan, I had great hopes that Bury This would successfully weave together the strands of (1) local law enforcement's revisiting a quarter-century old cold case homicide and (2) the class film project undertaken by students attending the deceased young woman's alma mater. There were little glimmerings throughout, providing hope that this would come to pass--most notably in the parallel sense of protectiveness felt by both the initially self-involved film students and the police detective toward the dead woman's grieving parents. None of this really panned out, unfortunately, and these two threads felt largely sequential rather than interlinked. Moreover, the final resolution lacked panache--as did law enforcement's role in the process. This may well have been a first-rate depiction of how such cold cases come to be cleared, but it was outweighed by the fact that I had a difficult time feeling particularly invested in any of these characters.(less)