I was skeptical about TRFG. After all, if a book is a Starbucks free download, how good can it be? Shockingly, very, very good.
TRFG is constructed in...moreI was skeptical about TRFG. After all, if a book is a Starbucks free download, how good can it be? Shockingly, very, very good.
TRFG is constructed in two stories intertwined (like many are today; mostly alternating chapters back in forth from the present to the past). The main story is the redemption of Benjamin Benjamin, a man who has just about hit rock bottom due to the what takes place in the horrific other story. It's challenging to write about this without spoilers, but it's heartbreaking and BB's response is completely realistic and normal. The main story is about BB's new role as a hired DSHS (Washington Medicaid) caregiver for a young guy named Trevor who has Muscular Dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair. The dialogue is fresh and funny (I learned a lot of interesting new vocabulary via urbandictionary.com) and the book has both laugh out loud and cry moments; often in such close proximity that the reader just doesn't know how to respond.
The other aspect that I appreciated is that it is set in the Northwest and has a decidedly northwest affect in terms of humor and language.
I'd recommend this book for book groups. It's extremely discussable, and ultimately very uplifting.(less)
John Barth, I used to love you but I think it's time to end our relationship and I'm sorry. Maybe it's me, and not you, but it's really difficult to r...moreJohn Barth, I used to love you but I think it's time to end our relationship and I'm sorry. Maybe it's me, and not you, but it's really difficult to read your navel-gazing writing style (self-indulgent, self-reflective, too many inside jokes, too much "OFF" language, and frankly sex scenes that aren't that sexy) especially after having a head injury. Thus is the irony, as Every Third Thought's pivotal moment is the author's knock to the head when missing a step in Stratford upon Avon, which theoretically causes three hallucinations or visions. But reading this really made my head hurt, and I am glad that it was only about 180 pages. Again, I'm sorry. It's me, not you. Maybe we can still be friends? Remember all the good times we had together?(less)
Like many people, Piper Kerman did some stupid things when she was young. She trusted the wrong people, fell in love with the wrong people, and, oh ye...moreLike many people, Piper Kerman did some stupid things when she was young. She trusted the wrong people, fell in love with the wrong people, and, oh yeah, she was involved in an international drug smuggling ring and transported a suitcase of cash across international lines. Ten years later, this all comes back to haunt her when she is indicted on federal charges for criminal conspiracy to commit drug smuggling and money laundering and charged to serve 15 months in a federal penitentiary. After years of delay, she finally surrenders herself to Danbury Federal women's penitentiary in Connecticut.
While I haven't seen the Netflix version, the novel is a great read. Slightly repetitive in parts, it details Piper's incarceration in the minimum security "camp" from beginning to end. It's a very clear view into a very human nightmare that questions the effectiveness of the US penitentiary system. Piper is clearly credible, having lived through this experience, and brings a very direct, non-whiny perspective. She endures her time stoically and with respect for the other women she encounters (granted there are some "crazies" and she "isn't that way"). I couldn't put this down and whipped through it in a day.
I'd recommend this to anyone, especially my kids. It left me very thankful that none of the stupid things I did when growing up resulted in federal time.(less)
The sequel to Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Luka and the Fire of Life is Haroun's younger brother's trip into their father's magical storytelling wor...moreThe sequel to Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Luka and the Fire of Life is Haroun's younger brother's trip into their father's magical storytelling world. The "Shah of Blah", as their father is called, falls ill and unresponsive. Luka and his pets encounter "Nobodaddy" a spirit that grows stronger as his father grows weaker and ultimately will escape with his fathers life. The only cure is for Luka to capture the fire of life from his fathers storytelling world, and bring his father back to strength using its magical powers.
Rushdie weaves a rich, humorous tale full of allegory, pun, and reference to just about every culture conceivable. While the story is amusing, for me the prose was too packed full of almost trying to prove a point by including everything imaginable. It was sort of like being in a jam-packed and poorly curated antiques warehouse; a little overwhelming. I plugged slowly through the first 2/3 and then rapidly through the last 1/3 mostly due to exhaustion and impatience.
I'd recommend this book to children. It's stories, format, and construct would probably be very interesting and it may interest them in cross-reading of other things mentioned.(less)
The title, Norwegian Wood, is from the Beatles song of the same name, which wasn't recognizable to me by title until I played it. I meant to do so ear...moreThe title, Norwegian Wood, is from the Beatles song of the same name, which wasn't recognizable to me by title until I played it. I meant to do so earlier, but just didn't get around to it. Now, I can't stop playing versions of the song from various artists.
"I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me... "
Norwegian Wood isn't typical Murakami but it does include recognizable themes, names, cats, wells, etc. It is more of a straightforward story, set in Tokyo in the late 60s, after Toru Watanabe's best friend, Kizuki, commits suicide. Always having admired his friend, and felt that his girlfriend, Naoko, was unattainable, Watanabe begins a strange and strained relationship with her.
Although this is a love story, it is still complex and full of imagery, like the other Murakami works I've read. The characters are complicated, the story is sometimes sad and twisting, but beautiful. It's very difficult to put this book down once you've started it.(less)
Like others, I am a huge Vonnegut fan, and I thought I had read them all until I ran across The Sirens of Titan in the bargain bin at the UW bookstore...moreLike others, I am a huge Vonnegut fan, and I thought I had read them all until I ran across The Sirens of Titan in the bargain bin at the UW bookstore. While its been 20 years since I last read Vonnegut, I loved SoT. It's a little difficult to get into at first, but full worth it so keep going (the crazy construction of the chrono-synclastic infundibula is wacky, but awesome, bear with it). Also, being an Archer fan, I did appreciate that the Archer episode Kazak is a reference to Winston Niles Rumfoord's time traveling dog. Ultimately, this is a book about god, faith, higher power, class/birthright, the will of man, and other great themes with Martian space travel thrown in.(less)
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank is a compilation of 8 short stories related to Jewish life in the US and abroad. Each story is magnif...moreWhat We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank is a compilation of 8 short stories related to Jewish life in the US and abroad. Each story is magnificent. This is a stark contrast to stereotypical views of jews that we see in literature, like Jennifer Weiner's The Next Best Thing. WWTAWWTAAF provides various perspectives into jewish life, perspectives, fears, logic, history, ethics, and social culture focusing predominantly on the orthodoxy. You don't need to be Jewish to appreciate this book; but as a secular jew I found it very powerful. I was particularly amazed at how Nathan Englander was able to craft so many distinct characters using dialogue and situational description rather than going into a huge backstory on each person. Little details, like the wigs worn by women, or the keds and ankle-length jeans skirts, provided an amazing amount of information. (less)
"The Next Best Thing" looked like an entertaining, light read. Unfortunately, it was so cliched I could barely finish it. The story of Ruth Saunders,...more"The Next Best Thing" looked like an entertaining, light read. Unfortunately, it was so cliched I could barely finish it. The story of Ruth Saunders, who at 3 is orphaned in a car accident and raised by her grandmother, decides to become a TV writer because of her love of the Golden Girls. I should have put it down at that point, but yet, I plugged on. This book is about 3x as long as it needs to be. I don't understand why there is so much time spent in character development when it could have been accomplished in one or two chapters, and also when the characters are really just characatures (Jewish grandmother who dresses well, works at a furniture store, and likes to cook). There is nothing unpredictable about this book, except when it will end.(less)
The Expats is the story of Katherine, aka Kate, an ex-CIA agent with two small children whose husband, Dexter, has decided to take a lucrative short-t...moreThe Expats is the story of Katherine, aka Kate, an ex-CIA agent with two small children whose husband, Dexter, has decided to take a lucrative short-term position in Luxembourg. Dexter's specialty is IT security for the banking industry. So Kate quits the CIA, packs up the family, and the Moores move to Lux where Kate begins a new life as an Expat Stay-at-Home-Mom. While she adjusts to shuttling the kids to/from school, coffee meets with other moms, and the repetitive nature of home life (clean, cook, clean, sleep), her CIA agent radar starts to suspect something weird in a couple (Julia and Bill) who have befriended them.
The beginning of The Expats is a fun play on the old working mom vs. SAHM controversy with the intrigue of European living thrown in. But stylistically, the book flips back and forth between present day (random confrontation between Kate and Julia) and the build to how we get to the present day with the Moore's transition to Luxembourg. There are way too many breadcrumbs in this light spy novel to really give it a serious level of intrigue, and if you haven't figured it out by mid-way through the book, well, you're probably better suited for a desk job than field work. So while I found myself enjoying the beginning, the book just didn't stay compelling enough through the finish.(less)
A beautiful American actress is diagnosed with cancer and arrives onshore in a tiny Italian village to convalesce. Only she's in the wrong village and...moreA beautiful American actress is diagnosed with cancer and arrives onshore in a tiny Italian village to convalesce. Only she's in the wrong village and she doesn't have cancer. This story is told from various perspectives, which lately has really been bugging me, but in this case it didn't. I whipped through this book in two days and am amused at how polarized the reviews seem to be (love it/hate it). (less)
Taipei has a gorgeous cover which I fell in love with immediately. The book itself is a struggle to read, which I think is the point; a commentary on...moreTaipei has a gorgeous cover which I fell in love with immediately. The book itself is a struggle to read, which I think is the point; a commentary on people who strive to be deep but in reality are incredibly shallow.
Taipei is written from the perspective of Paul, a writer and New York hipster in his mid/late twenties. In contrast to most novels, there is very little dialogue. Instead, the book is a documentary of Paul's (and other character's) contemplations and observations as they go through life ingesting tons of drugs, partying, "working" (which seems to consist of relating to others via computer, or giving readings on drugs, or making films of themselves while doing banal things on drugs and trying to be ironic). It's unbelievably depressing, mindless, and aimless and given how real it can be (in the sense of critiquing the environment in which individuals can be in the same room and communicate via text rather than face-to-face, or need to meticulously update their facebook status, or feel that their goodreads critiques of novels are important enough to share with the world...). Taipei is almost as torturous and haunting as a Stephen King novel.
I'd find it difficult to recommend this to anyone unless I really didn't like them. I don't care about Paul's internal monologue or his constant abuse of prescription medication. There are sentences here and there that are worthy of highlighting, but it's not worth the effort to get off the couch and find the highlighter because Paul's klonopin and ambien-induced haze completely dulled any motivation I may have. And someone else probably already wrote a review doing so.(less)
In "Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain" Lucia Perillo has captured the very abnormally-normal people of the Pacific Northwest in a series of short s...moreIn "Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain" Lucia Perillo has captured the very abnormally-normal people of the Pacific Northwest in a series of short stories. Her imagery is stunning; there are often entire paragraphs composed of images, but for some reason I didn't get tired of them. For example, "when she closes her eyes, she sees herself lying on her back as the fire passes over her, her eyelids burning like a piece of film stuck in a projector. Her glasses exploding like windows in an abandoned burning shed.". She describes common and average things with amazing beauty and clarity, sort of like the PNW (the silvery look of water, which I see from my window right now). Another favorite passage is this; "And even though I'm the one in the filmy shirt, if you look close enough you can see in fact he's the one who's insubstantial, as if at any moment he might turn into smoke. And when he does, I'll make a ninety-degree turn and walk right through him. Ad my solidness will churn whatever's left of him to wisps."
While she does describe the PNW and it's settings, she does it in a slightly disguised way. Place names have been changed but us locals can essentially figure them out (or come close). And even if you're not from the capital of seasonal affective disorder, the characters in "Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain" should resonate with you as well.(less)