Juan and Alberto Ramos are brothers, friends, and partners through the ups and downs of the turbulent 1950s and 1960s in Cuba and America. DeBlanck ha...moreJuan and Alberto Ramos are brothers, friends, and partners through the ups and downs of the turbulent 1950s and 1960s in Cuba and America. DeBlanck has taken the forty-thousand-foot view we read about in history books and provided us with an intimate view of this time through the lives of the Ramos Brothers.
I read because of characters, and I found myself enthralled in the lives of these boys and their family and friends. Whether it was Lucretia's hypocritical relationship with the boys and the church, Florencio's courage in becoming the father he needed to be only after being separated, or the brothers' trust in the eerie connections they had with Castro and Kennedy, DeBlanck has entranced us with real characters, conflicted and flawed. I wanted Alberto to somehow reunite with Emilia, and I was rooting for Juan to open up about his true identity to Amanda in the living room of that suite. These characters are what made me keep reading, made me stay up late just to see what happened next, made me analyze my own relationship with my family. What if my father was separated from me? What if my mother disagreed with me at a fundamental level? In fact, DeBlanck has humanized Havana, breathing life through its streets with his colorful prose. With Fidel's "La Revolución" and Kennedy's Presidential election, we know what's going to happen, yet we have no idea what's going to happen to these characters.
I loved the sprinkling of Spanish words throughout the story to give it that "auténtico" touch. The details of the settings, the descriptions of events, the interactions between the brothers with their world show DeBlanck's mastery of historical research, plotting, and character development. It's mind boggling to behold the authenticity of this story and its characters.
I've never been to Cuba, but now I have. I wish this story never ended; I would keep reading every night until catching up to Juan and Alberto in present day. -Jonathan Sturak 01/08/2013(less)
Stripper Lessons provides a window into the life of a lonely man. Carroll is the guy who watches the world turn from the shad...moreHave you ever felt alone?
Stripper Lessons provides a window into the life of a lonely man. Carroll is the guy who watches the world turn from the shadows, the guy you walk past at the mall, never knowing he was ever there. But that guy was there, watching you walk past.
The story is personal and the plot only occurs over a few days. I wondered why O’Brien chose this part of Carroll’s seemingly repetitious life. But then Stevie dances her way into his world. O’Brien describes the breathtaking blond with some of the most vivid prose I’ve ever read. I found myself re-reading some of these passages, mesmerized as if I were beholding an artist’s painting or listening to a classical masterpiece. O’Brien gives us very little backstory on these characters, but I can appreciate the “here and now” with Carroll and Stevie’s interactions. I wanted this guy to find what he was lacking. He tried everything, an infomercial video for “shy men,” flashy clothes with “curlicues,” and even alcohol (Carroll’s naivety with booze is the opposite of Ben’s overindulgence in Leaving Las Vegas). But even though Carroll alienates coworkers, barmaids, and strippers over the course of the book, he gains a deeper understanding of himself and an acceptance of who he is, and who he is not.
You always glean new words from O’Brien’s works, and this fact, in my opinion, adds another layer to his stories. As I read Strippers Lessons, I became emotionally involved with Carroll and feared for him as the end neared. In the few days we spend with him in the story, it seemed his subconscious prompted him to grow, and made him become not the guy watching from the shadows, bottling his emotions up, but the guy shouting, tossing and shattering said bottle onto the ground. And I particularly liked how Carroll ran up to Stevie in the parking lot outside of Indiscretions. He was no longer afraid to be a lonely man.
Read Leaving Las Vegas for a view into a character losing his way; read Stripper Lessons for a view into a character finding his way. -Jonathan Sturak 12/08/2012(less)
George Magruder is a civilized man, a man who doesn’t believe in violence or guns. He believes in the advancement of mankind, using debate and discuss...moreGeorge Magruder is a civilized man, a man who doesn’t believe in violence or guns. He believes in the advancement of mankind, using debate and discussion to address problems. George is an American. He married a Brit named Louise and together they have a young impressionable daughter. The Magruder family has been living in Louise's country for several months as George works on a research paper. They have bypassed the civilized city, renting a sprawling home called “Trencher’s Farm” inside a mysterious village in the fringes of England, miles away from London, miles away from the rest of the world.
As George, the civilized outsider, complains to his wife about the uncivilized village surrounding him, a storm begins brewing. George is about to clash with a group of locals who wants to bury him and his family along with the other secrets plaguing this backwater village.
During a series of bizarre mishaps, George finds himself harboring a legally insane pedophile as a group of hostile men, under the influence of not only alcohol, but years of repression, attempts to breach his house. A blizzard has crippled this small village, but it hasn’t crippled the action unfolding at Trencher’s Farm. George has the simple yet very powerful objective of protecting his home and his family. The last half of the book plays out in near real-time. This is the book’s best and, conversely, most critical feature. It's literary genius to see George transform right in front of your eyes. He becomes a "man," at least in his wife's eyes, and uses his book smarts to defend, and ultimately attack, these intruders. Every man has his breaking point and Mr. Williams provides us with a window into George’s transformation from a coward, to a strong man, to an inhuman animal.
If you enjoy action and becoming immersed into the details of an elaborate plot, then you must read this classic. Two films have spawned from Mr. Williams' words. This book has similarities in characters and form, but it’s nothing like the film adaptations. Read it! -Jonathan Sturak 9/30/2012(less)
Christine Redlin shares a book full of real-world anecdotes that will entertain you, motivate you, and provide you with tips for your everyday life. T...moreChristine Redlin shares a book full of real-world anecdotes that will entertain you, motivate you, and provide you with tips for your everyday life. The fact that it's set in Beverly Hills makes it that much more unique! Who doesn't fantasize about living a life in Beverly Hills brushing shoulders with celebrities and personalities? But who can afford it? Christine shows you how the girl next door did for years. This book is full of cost saving tips, money earning secrets, and creative ways to live within your means, in Beverly Hills and beyond. I learned that a great place to visit (for FREE) in Beverly Hills is the Greystone Mansion. Christine even provides web links to many of her tips!
Buy this book for your girlfriend, wife, mom, or yourself! Men should read it too. The chapter on Christine's car stories is hilarious! Who knew that gun patches could easily fix a leaky convertible top until you saved up enough for a new one?! Very creative!
I read Drive after seeing the film by the same name. The book differs in many areas of the film, which makes it hard to compare. As a book, James Sall...moreI read Drive after seeing the film by the same name. The book differs in many areas of the film, which makes it hard to compare. As a book, James Sallis creates an intriguing character we get to know through flashbacks and quick chapters. I like the snippets of character, the brush strokes of a man only known as “Driver.” Mr. Sallis writes with dead-on brevity and gives us only enough information to open the door a crack. I love how he writes, it's just as mysterious as the character. There are times, however, where I find it confusing to tell who is speaking. Eliminating all “Driver saids” in a sequence of ten lines makes it necessary to count evens and odds to differentiate each character. But I get what Sallis is going for with his prose, and he is a master at it. Overall, a great character study leading to a great film! -Jonathan Sturak 02/22/2012(less)
The first Shane Scully I've read. Great characters. The first two pages of this book are mesmerizing. One of the best intros I've read. Long live Mr....moreThe first Shane Scully I've read. Great characters. The first two pages of this book are mesmerizing. One of the best intros I've read. Long live Mr. Cannell...(less)
This thriller keeps you guessing. I like how the two main characters are so different, yet are so much alike. I saw the film adaptation in Las Vegas a...moreThis thriller keeps you guessing. I like how the two main characters are so different, yet are so much alike. I saw the film adaptation in Las Vegas and loved it! The author died too young.(less)
A story so large, yet so small. This book takes a global apocalyptic event and boils it down to two characters--a man and his son. We follow them on a...moreA story so large, yet so small. This book takes a global apocalyptic event and boils it down to two characters--a man and his son. We follow them on a journey to the beach where they hope to find something, anything, to give them hope to live. I felt deep emotion toward both characters. This is a compelling Cormac McCarthy novel with a great film adaptation.(less)
One of my very favorites. Leaving Las Vegas is a study of three characters lost in their own worlds.
Sera grows from a naive girl lost on the streets i...moreOne of my very favorites. Leaving Las Vegas is a study of three characters lost in their own worlds.
Sera grows from a naive girl lost on the streets in Los Angeles to a smart, sexy, and increasingly independent woman working the streets in Las Vegas. I understand why Sera does what she does, and so does she.
I particularly like Ben. He is the guy you see stumbling through the shadows at 2 am. Ben is lost in the world he lives in, shunned by society, by everyone, but he is grounded in his own world. Ben has a plan and this is why his character is so powerful. His plan of drinking himself to death sounds bizarre, even downright insane, but he has every detail worked out perfectly. This is where Ben gets interesting. The fact that he donates his clothes, his furniture, his useless household items to real homeless and underprivileged people proves Ben’s humility. He is a good person deep down and my moments with him in the story really make me empathize with him. One of my favorite passages is Ben’s description of true love with a dancer performing at a strip club as he falls for her with her lingering kiss.
Although it may appear that the alcoholic and the prostitute are the weakest characters, the third person in the story, Sera’s pimp, is actually the most troubled. Al hides behind his Mercedes, his fancy jewelry, and his false sense of control over Sera. While Sera and Ben are in the front seat of the car plummeting off the cliff with their eyes open, Al is in the backseat with his eyes closed.
John O’Brien was a wonderful author with a true ability to create living, breathing characters with his words. He died too young. I salute you. You live on through your words... -Jonathan Sturak 12/21/2011 (less)