I think I read a tiny little blurb about this book in one of the numerous journals I have to read for work every week, and based on that tiny blurb, II think I read a tiny little blurb about this book in one of the numerous journals I have to read for work every week, and based on that tiny blurb, I decided I needed to have this book. It's about librarians, falling-down houses, traveling carnivals, sideshows and sideshow performers, horseshoe crabs, tarot cards and mermaids. It was MADE for me!!
At its heart, The Book of Speculation is a well-written family history with a bit of a magical mystery in the middle. Simon, a librarian with money, job and house troubles lost his parents years ago. His father died in a more conventional manner, while his mother, a performing mermaid and tarot reader with an impossible ability to hold her breath, drowned under mysterious conditions. Simon was left to raise his sister Enola. He worries that she might suffer the same fate.
The receipt of a fascinating ledger book belonging to a very old traveling sideshow is a complete mystery to Simon. His ability to research (he is a librarian after all) combined with his abruptly losing his job, his discovery of his grandmother's name in the book and his sister's erratic behavior after an unexpected trip home, launch an obsessive need to know all this book's secrets.
Told with a split perspective, I really enjoyed both the historical and present day threads of the story. It somehow lacked the glossy romanticism that comes along with so many books about sideshows, which was refreshing. I loved Simon's obsessive research.
This is a book that reveals long-held family secrets, has interesting characters and a very strong sense of place, and I am already thinking of the select recommendations I will be making to patrons when this book comes out....more
I want to be in Mallorca. The Rocks captures the easy culture of an old resort known as The Rocks, run by eccentric Lulu and populated with it's year I want to be in Mallorca. The Rocks captures the easy culture of an old resort known as The Rocks, run by eccentric Lulu and populated with it's yearly group of regular ex-pats. I could taste the wine and feel the breeze.
The books begins with Lulu and Gerald, who were very briefly married, and despite 60 years of avoiding each other on the same small island, a confrontation happens that leaves their children baffled. The story is told backwards, jumping back a decade or so, once tiny secrets are revealed to show what lead up to each event. It is an unusual, yet interesting way to develop the lives of the characters. We first see the results and then get the explanations.
It is a good relaxing beach read, with well-developed characters with note-worthy eccentricities. Set in such a beautiful, multicultural place, it inspires wanderlust, and its structure keeps it interesting. I recommend it for fans of Beautiful Ruins, yet it is less experimental and not quite as charming....more
This is a very interesting read. Told from the point of view of Lumen Fowler as a reinvented adult, When We Were Animals tells the story of a small toThis is a very interesting read. Told from the point of view of Lumen Fowler as a reinvented adult, When We Were Animals tells the story of a small town where all the teenagers "go breech" on the full moon. They strip naked, go feral, have sex, and basically tear each other apart. There is no explanation for why this happens. Lumen is convinced that, as a good girl, she will be immune from this frenzy since her long-dead mother never went through it. Lumen as an adult has a bit of wildness to her. She seems a bit superior (possibly due to the narration in the audiobook), while she watches her young son bite and hit the neighborhood kids. Lumen as a child is timid and quiet. This book is a clear allegory for the insanity that happens during puberty with its strong, almost uncontrollable urges. The mythology of the story lends it a real magic, and the writing is at times beautiful. I really enjoyed this one....more
I have heard so many good things about Nell Zink and her writing, so I was excited to read this, especially after reading the description of this bookI have heard so many good things about Nell Zink and her writing, so I was excited to read this, especially after reading the description of this book. A lesbian college student gets pregnant and later marries her very gay college poetry professor? Books that deal with the inconsistencies with peoples identities, and the grey areas of sexuality are a particular interest. This book starts of really strong with a fair amount of humor and very good writing. It got a little muddier for me once Peg hits the road to reinvent herself. It is clearly satire and the racial aspects of the story were a little bit more far-fetched than I was expecting. Regardless, I enjoyed these characters and this book, I loved the relationship between Temple and Karen, and couldn't entirely wrap my head around why Peg would be attracted to Lee in the first place. I'll keep an eye out for more Nell Zink in the future...more
I managed to score a signed ARC of the followup to Every Day at Book Expo this year. Having loved the other David Levithan books I've read, I even stoI managed to score a signed ARC of the followup to Every Day at Book Expo this year. Having loved the other David Levithan books I've read, I even stood on line for this one. I am still astounded that queer YA lit is a thing that exists, because it really didn't when I was a kid. Regardless of the topic or intended audience, David Levithan can write! I figured I needed to read this one first before dipping into my new coveted book. As with his other books, the language is excellent, the characters are flawed and well-written and the idea completely compelling, even if far-fetched. I loved how this book dealt with A's gender - neither male or female - and A's sexuality - falling in love with people. I think it was interesting how each body taught A something about humanity as a whole, and how those experiences informed A's decisions about how to live life in each body. I'm looking forward to seeing Rihannon's point of view, though I suspect it to be a much more rigid take on everything that happened, and she is far less queer....more
Pete Snow is a social worker, but his own family life is a mess. His wife has left him, his daughter hates him, he's got a serious alcohol problem, yePete Snow is a social worker, but his own family life is a mess. His wife has left him, his daughter hates him, he's got a serious alcohol problem, yet he helps poor families care for their children, places kids in foster care, and genuinely seems to care about the outcomes of his interventions. When he happens upon an undernourished, dirty child, he tries to help the kid, only to discover that he is being moved throughout the wilderness by his crack-pot, paranoid, end-timer father, who refuses all help and trusts no one. It is an extremely well-written, bleak, engaging story that held my attention from the beginning. I'm looking out for more from Smith Henderson....more
I am a Mountain Goats fan and have been for years. Because of that, I know that John Darnielle is an excellent storyteller, and his writing is usuallyI am a Mountain Goats fan and have been for years. Because of that, I know that John Darnielle is an excellent storyteller, and his writing is usually on the edge of the angst-ridden, cynical and biting. His lyrics are evocative of suburban boredom and less-than fulfilling relationships that are always on the edge of ending but don't. This book has a similar feel to it and I can't completely wrap my head around it.
Sean is an outcast because of an "accident" that leaves him severely disfigured. He struggles to go out in public due to the staring and discomfort of those around him. His parents are angry about the whole thing, and he is left without any real friends. Most stopped coming around after not knowing how to deal with his injuries.
To keep himself busy, while still having contact with the outside world, he constructs an elaborate fantasy world, where participants can pay to take turns within the game through the mail. He becomes interested in the lives of several of his participants, but is never really involved in their lives outside of the game. Unfortunately, some people end up taking the game too seriously.
I don't really know what to think of this book, as I just finished it last night and I'm still mulling it over in my mind. Sean is a deeply sympathetic character, yet we don't get to know him that well. His motivations aren't completely clear, but as a narrator, he is thoughtful and complex. His story comes out in pieces. I still feel his loneliness. ...more
The House of Small Shadows is a creepy and entertaining modern Gothic novel. A young appraiser gets lured into a house full of valuable antiques, yetThe House of Small Shadows is a creepy and entertaining modern Gothic novel. A young appraiser gets lured into a house full of valuable antiques, yet finds out that the place is full of dolls, taxidermy tableaus of battle scenes, never-before-seen marionettes and two old, very eccentric ladies.
It never veers into all-out sleep with the lights on horror, but it is definitely creepy. While horror is not always my thing, I can frequently get sucked into a good Gothic on a rainy day.
I have to say, I'm a little bit tired of the post-apocalyptic novel. It seems to be the newest hot trend, and many authors are jumping on that bandwagI have to say, I'm a little bit tired of the post-apocalyptic novel. It seems to be the newest hot trend, and many authors are jumping on that bandwagon. Some of these novels stick out for me because they don't necessarily focus on how the world fell apart, or what contributed to that, but on the more human elements, (like Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake series and The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker). This story is really how Cal and Frida survive together, get what they need, protect themselves, and eventually seek out other survivors.
It's about the shift from solitude to community, and the consequences of secrets. I really enjoyed it a lot....more
A few years in the life of an aging rock star. Anna Brundage had some real success earlier in her career, but had some problems that caused a hiccup iA few years in the life of an aging rock star. Anna Brundage had some real success earlier in her career, but had some problems that caused a hiccup in her writing, touring and performing. She decides to go back on the road as a last-ditch attempt to rekindle her musical success.
Anna is an articulate narrator, who ably tells her story. Her experiences on tour feel authentic, with her descriptions of her own music lush. I got a little lost in getting interested in her various loves and losses.
Mostly, I really wanted to hear her music, which unfortunately doesn't exist. This book is well-written and seems to be acquainted with the music scene....more
This was a book I read quickly, because I had trouble putting it down. It was both a legal thriller and a portrait of a family slowly coming apart, anThis was a book I read quickly, because I had trouble putting it down. It was both a legal thriller and a portrait of a family slowly coming apart, and it kept me on an emotional roller coaster until the surprise ending. The 14 year old son of an assistant DA in a Boston suburb is accused of murdering a schoolmate. His guilt or innocence is not known throughout the book. The story is told mostly through the eyes of his father, and the plot takes many disturbing twists and turns and raises many questions. How far should a parent go to protect his child? Is there such a thing as a "murder gene"? The writing is skillful and the story is riveting. I highly recommend it....more
Natchez Burning follows Penn Cage, former lawyer turned mayor of the town of Natchez, Mississippi, as he tries to prove his aging father, Dr. Tom CageNatchez Burning follows Penn Cage, former lawyer turned mayor of the town of Natchez, Mississippi, as he tries to prove his aging father, Dr. Tom Cage, has been wrongly accused of murder. With the help of a few friends, Cage investigates the murder of Viola Turner, the nurse with whom his father had worked with in the early 1960s and who Dr. Cage is accused of murdering, and uncovers a KKK-linked conspiracy spanning decades.
The chapters alternate between different characters' viewpoints, both in the 1960s and the early 2000s. There is a lot of setup and back story in the beginning (the book is 800 pages) but did end up being an immersible story filled with southern atmosphere.
There are three previous Penn Cage novels, though never having read them I still didn't feel lost or that I was missing something. Natchez Burning is itself the first in a trilogy. ...more
This book is very different from your typical immigrant book, or your typical Indian immigrant book. Like those books, Ajay does struggle with old worThis book is very different from your typical immigrant book, or your typical Indian immigrant book. Like those books, Ajay does struggle with old world vs. new world a bit, but that is far from the focus of this story.
Ajay, his parents and his older brother, Birju move to queens from India, while he is a young kid. He is amazed at what he finds in New York (elevators, television, subways), but finds himself missing India. As he is struggling, his brother is thriving. He is 15 years old, was accepted into the Bronx High School for math and science and is brought around the the other Indian families to be a good influence on the kids of friends and neighbors. Tragedy places Birju in a vegetative state and Ajay's family must try to keep the family from falling apart.
It is an excellent reflection on opportunity and grief....more
I really found myself wrapped up in this story, and wondering what was going to happen when I was away from it. Roth Ozeki's characterization is so goI really found myself wrapped up in this story, and wondering what was going to happen when I was away from it. Roth Ozeki's characterization is so good - from the 104 year old Zen master, to the "hostess" at a Japanese French-Maid-themed cafe, to the nosy British Columbia neighbors of Ruth and Oliver. Nao, the 16 year old Tokyo girl, whose diary washes up on the BC shoreline, is an able narrator. She is chatty and honest, and seems to delight in the act of writing. The prospect of writing FOR someone seems to cheer her, when she is otherwise tortured and suicidal. I loved her love for her Great-Grandmother, and her need to tell her story. I was less captivated by Ruth's story, and really despised her know-it-all husband, but I felt that I was looking over her shoulder when she was getting swept along by Nao's story.
I'm really looking forward to discussing this one....more
I really enjoyed this book more than I imagined I would! I didn't know entirely what to expect, but I loved Harry's foibles, his willingness to try toI really enjoyed this book more than I imagined I would! I didn't know entirely what to expect, but I loved Harry's foibles, his willingness to try to do his best and often failing, I loved the precocious kids, the sleazy hook-ups, the punchlines, all of it. I was constantly rooting for Harry, despite all his flaws. There were even a few laugh-out-loud moments. I am very interested to read more by Homes...more
I really liked the Borrower a lot, and got excited when I found out that Rebecca Makkai had another book coming out. While the Borrower was light andI really liked the Borrower a lot, and got excited when I found out that Rebecca Makkai had another book coming out. While the Borrower was light and sweet and her depictions of Burlington were recognizable to me (The Crow Bookshop, etc.) I didn't know that she had the literary chops to produce a novel that is this structurally clever, and I also never thought I'd enjoy a novel that is told so blatantly in reverse.
The common thread that ties this complex story together is an estate -turned artist-colony - turned-estate, that in its heyday hosted and housed artists across all fields. In 1999, a struggling writer is having a surprisingly hard time accessing the colony's archives. When he finally gains access, it begins the reader's discovery of a variety of secrets spanning a century. The interesting this is that because of the reverse telling of the story, each character digging into the history only gets a sample of what actually happens.
It's also one of those books that would be a completely different read the second time around. I'll be very interested to hear the buzz once it comes out. I think it'll be significant.
(This is based on an uncorrected advance reader copy.)...more
I am so impressed with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. First of all, she can really write beautifully. Her characters are 3 dimensional, and her descriptionI am so impressed with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. First of all, she can really write beautifully. Her characters are 3 dimensional, and her descriptions vivid and evocative. What to me is most extraordinary with her writing, is that it is obviously political and historic, but she makes the horrifying and difficult palatable by telling the story more through family drama than "this happened and then this happened." It was what I was so impressed by in Americanah as well.
With the exception of Ugwu, the 13-year-old house boy, Odenigbo, Olanna, Richard and Kainene come from a relative wealth in a cosmopolitan post-British rule Nigeria (though Richard is white and from London). They are idealistic supporters of the Biafran movement, and are not immune to the horrors that befall everyone once the war begins.
I found myself really caring what happened to the characters. It made me curious about what ACTUALLY happened during the Biafran War, and how things are in present-day Nigeria, especially since I finished this book a day or so after the news reported that 200 Nigerian girls were kidnapped because of their access to education. I now want to investigate more....more
Fin & Lady is the story of 8 year-old orphan Fin who is left in the care of his 20-something older sister, Lady. The story is set in 1960's New YoFin & Lady is the story of 8 year-old orphan Fin who is left in the care of his 20-something older sister, Lady. The story is set in 1960's New York. Lady owns a brownstone in Greenwich Village; Fin who grew up with his parents on a farm is out of his element. Together, though Fin & Lady become co-conspirators, along with their maid, Mabel who is truly the only adult presence in the lives of these two. Lady and Fin begin years of escapades where they each in turn take care of taking care of each other. Fin & Lady is a light, easy read. The characters are lovable and captivating. ...more
There seems to be a renewed interest in post-revolution Iran, with the success of Argo and the publication of a handful of well-regarded books. Saba wThere seems to be a renewed interest in post-revolution Iran, with the success of Argo and the publication of a handful of well-regarded books. Saba was 11 years old in 1981, when she saw her mother and her twin sister Mahtab get on a plane to the United States, yet she never heard from either of them ever again. Heartbroken, Saba desperately tries to come to terms with their disappearance.
As she grows up, she writes stories about Mahtab's life in the US, her struggles and triumphs and her nurturing by "Baba Harvard," the school that becomes her father figure. These stories of Mahtab's life are reflective of the goals Saba has for her future, where she hopes to leave Iran, go to America, and live the life of the independent woman she longs to be.
Saba is an excellent character. She's a bit plucky, she and her best friends, even as adults hide in her father's pantry to smoke hash, she listens to American music, and reads contraband magazines.
I highly recommend this book to fans of Persepolis....more
I approached this book knowing next to nothing about modern-day Chechnya. I knew it was war torn, but I had no idea of how people currently live. ThisI approached this book knowing next to nothing about modern-day Chechnya. I knew it was war torn, but I had no idea of how people currently live. This book is set in the Chechnya of check-points, land mines and frequent disappearances of people they know.
Akhmed, a failed physician, after witnessing his friend and neighbor be abducted, takes his neighbor's young daughter to a hospital for safe keeping. The bombed-out hospital is run by the only remaining surgeon in the area - a very gruff female doctor, who is constantly tasked with delivering babies and amputating legs.
This is an unusual story, with vivid characters. The lives of these people are difficult and their outcomes are often bleak, but there are some truly magical moments, as well as some memorable humor. (I don't know that I'll ever think of turtles or whales the same way!)
One to look out for. This is probably one of the best books I've read in a long time....more
I love Mary Roach for many reasons. Here are a few: Her consistently informative writing that always teaches something interesting Her obvious enjoymentI love Mary Roach for many reasons. Here are a few: Her consistently informative writing that always teaches something interesting Her obvious enjoyment in her research which comes through in her writing Her willingness to do what no other science writer is willing to do - especially the really gross stuff The real delight she takes in puns and the completely appropriate names of some of the scientists she encounters (a man named Grimes who works for a soap company, a Dr. Spitz with whom she discusses saliva, etc.)
Gulp is as fascinating and as hilarious as all her other books, and I look forward to more....more
I've been meaning to get to this one for a while. The description sounded too odd to ignore, and the reviews have been great. (It's the story of Sunn I've been meaning to get to this one for a while. The description sounded too odd to ignore, and the reviews have been great. (It's the story of Sunny, a bald pregnant woman, her autistic son, and her autistic husband who is on a space shuttle on a mission to deliver robots to the moon for colonization).
Shine Shine Shine is actually a pretty great book. Sunny has always been bald, and after the conception of her son, Bubber, she started wearing a wig. While living in suburban Virginia, Sunny attempts to fit in with the perfect housewives, but after Maxon leaves for the moon, everything begins to change.
The characters are unforgettable and, though quirky, they are three-dimensional. The love story between Sunny and Maxon feels believable, as does their desire to have normal lives despite their very real differences.
I wouldn't recommend this to just anyone, but those that are willing to get past the strange plot will find a very good story...more
A young girl is found murdered at the site of an archaeological dig outside of Dublin, Ireland. Detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox are the detectivA young girl is found murdered at the site of an archaeological dig outside of Dublin, Ireland. Detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox are the detectives assigned to the case. What isn't known by the police brass is that Detective Ryan went missing in the same woods when he was a boy and two of his friends went missing. As the investigation ensues, Ryan finds himself haunted by the past and pulled deeper into the mystery. The story is one of depth and psychological suspense. Recommended for fans of Stieg Larsson's 'Millenium trilogy' (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc.)...more
Katie Jun 14, 2013 Katie rated it 5 of 5 stars Wow. I really love Junot Diaz now. I enjoyed The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, but not as much as I Katie Jun 14, 2013 Katie rated it 5 of 5 stars Wow. I really love Junot Diaz now. I enjoyed The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, but not as much as I like these stories. This is How You Lose Her revisits the life of Yunior and his family, through the good and the bad. At the very center is their Dominican - New Jersey Heritage and all the stereotypes (good and bad) that go with that.
Each chapter is devoted to either Yunior's or Rafa's relationship with a girl, their exploits, their philandering, and complete disrespect for these girls. Despite all that, I desperately wanted to see Yunior succeed in all ways - relationship, academic and otherwise. He is a complex, extremely flawed, yet lovable character. I related to him even though my background, culture, and current life situations are so different from my own.
Fooling Houdini is an illuminating glimpse into the intensely secretive, obsessive world of magic and magicians. Without giving away too much, Stone iFooling Houdini is an illuminating glimpse into the intensely secretive, obsessive world of magic and magicians. Without giving away too much, Stone illustrates the dedication and practice necessary to even be considered a passable, let alone good magician.
He claims that the principles of magic - particularly close-up magic - are explainable by understanding basic concepts of psychology, physics, math and neurology. He visits scientists that demonstrate that the mind can be easily fooled if distracted enough, that there are formulas to predict the randomness of shuffled cards, and that the crowning achievement of any magician is to fool OTHER magicians.
After a very real humiliation, in front of other magicians, Alex Stone seeks the help of con artists, slight of hand experts and magic school symposia to hone his craft. With lots of practice, he is a capable honest con guy, with the ability to steal a watch, cheat at poker, play 3 card monte and perform a variety of scams.
It's a fun and interesting read. Definitely for fans of Moonwalking with Einstein....more
What a treat! This book is a rather silly, yet very well written account of the second Myfanwy Thomas, who wakes up in a park surrounded by people sheWhat a treat! This book is a rather silly, yet very well written account of the second Myfanwy Thomas, who wakes up in a park surrounded by people she killed with her bare hands and no memory of anything before that moment. Luckily, the original Myfanwy Thomas (I know - confusing) knew that she would lose her memory after being betrayed by a coworker, and worked hard to write letters intended to guide and inform the new Myfanwy Thomas in her body.
Myfanwy is actually a leader in the British Supernatural Secret Police, who are tasked with the protection of Great Britain from nuisances like houses full of disgusting fungus-y slime, and dragons. She can control the central nervous systems of people by simply touching them. He coworkers are all similarly supernatural, with a woman who can enter people's dreams, and a man who can manipulate metal.
It's as much screwball comedy as it is suspenseful, reminding me of a combination of Buffy (with the smart, strong witty female character), Ghostbusters, and X-Men. There is also a refreshing lack of romance. Female characters talk about work, not boys.
I look forward to the next book, and have been pushing it into the hands of all my nerdy, comic book and superhero loving friends. (I mean that in a good way, of course.)...more
How Should a Person Be is a somewhat neurotic, self-obsessed essay/novel in which Sheila explores exactly that - how should a person be.
I also can'tHow Should a Person Be is a somewhat neurotic, self-obsessed essay/novel in which Sheila explores exactly that - how should a person be.
I also can't help but feel that the aimless twenty-something (especially the aimless twenty-something FORMER ART STUDENT LOOKING FOR A JOB) novel is becoming a new genre, which also includes Office Girl, by Joe Meno. The characters are very self-aware, tend to think more in abstract and slightly absurd ways, are desperately floundering and are very very hip. I think this is a genre that translates better to film, because you get to actually SEE the absurdity, and the artistic process in its making, rather than hearing the characters talk and describe it. (I actually really like Miranda July, who seems to have championed this genre really well.) ...more
I had a particularly weird experience reading this book. It reads like historical fiction and I had to constantly remind myself that the book is set iI had a particularly weird experience reading this book. It reads like historical fiction and I had to constantly remind myself that the book is set in the present tense, and not in the 40s. It is a novel of prison mines, and ration cards, and loudspeakers in everyone's houses. It shows the cartoonish dictatorship of Kim Jong Il, and the overwhelming propaganda the North Koreans are subjected to from birth until death.
In the afterward, Adam Johnson described his own trip to North Korea, and how regardless of the amount of preparation he did, he still wasn't prepared for the reality of the place. Every oppression forced upon its people is turned around and promoted as a privilege - only to show how much greater North Korea is than any other nation. He talked about how he wanted to focus on the stories of the individual people - not the careful "citizens" of the Democratic Rebublic of North Korea, but the real inner lives of the people there.
I think he succeeded very well in telling the stories of a variety of people - an orphan, a commander, a torturer, a movie star, a sea captain, and many others. The shifting perspective was a little confusing, but the story as a whole was powerful and left me wanting to know what happened after it ended....more
Nicole George had an unusual family life. She was told that her father died from colon cancer, when she was 2, but a palm reader's claim that her fathNicole George had an unusual family life. She was told that her father died from colon cancer, when she was 2, but a palm reader's claim that her father was still alive sent her on a mission to find out the truth. What transpires is an interesting story, that involves lots of dogs, chickens, 2 separate coming out stories, girl bands, and actually calling Dr. Laura.
It's hip in a stereotypically Portlandia way....more
The Bravo Squad was filmed by a Fox News crew, in the middle of an unexpected battle, when the survivors become instant celebrities. They are sent onThe Bravo Squad was filmed by a Fox News crew, in the middle of an unexpected battle, when the survivors become instant celebrities. They are sent on a victory tour, where they meet the president, and participate in many parades. The tour's grand finale, before they are sent back to Iraq to finish their terms of service, is to participate in the half-time show (along with Destiny's Child) of a Dallas Cowboy's Thanksgiving Game.
The interesting thing about this book, is that it shines a gigantic, shiny spotlight on American culture. The tour thrust these soldiers, mostly teenagers, into the center of the spectacle where the questions, and celebrations, and thank-yous force them to relive the worst day of their lives.
It is a rather subtle, but powerful statement against war, what it does to those that survive it, and how our culture exacerbates the whole situation. ...more