This one was for my book club. We waited a really long time between reading the book and talking about it, but eventually it came back to us. It is an...moreThis one was for my book club. We waited a really long time between reading the book and talking about it, but eventually it came back to us. It is an experimental novel about a family on holiday, whose lives are interrupted (as the narrative is interrupted) by a stranger named Amber who becomes enmeshed with each of the characters. The novel told in third person limited point of view, with a section for each of the four members of the family and interjecting chapters for Amber. In the end, we had a lot to talk about with the book, but one of the members summed it up as, "We thought the book was weird, don't know what the point was, but we liked it." I find myself wanting to read it again.(less)
I had this book on my shelves for a while and was compelled to read it since the movie was coming out (which I also saw). The young zombie R is the na...moreI had this book on my shelves for a while and was compelled to read it since the movie was coming out (which I also saw). The young zombie R is the narrator of the story, and the book is a zombie romance, riffing on the bard's Romeo and Juliet. The voice in this book is definitely unique, but the story isn't, and it is a little cheesy at times, although I would recommend it for fans of both zombies and traditional YA romance (which is a pretty big audience).(less)
really enjoyed this book. It is written in the voice of a Justin Bieber-esque child pop star, on tour, searching for his biological father while deal...more really enjoyed this book. It is written in the voice of a Justin Bieber-esque child pop star, on tour, searching for his biological father while dealing with his overbearing momager (mom who is also his manager for those of you who don't watch anything with the Kardashians) and coming to terms with the beginnings of puberty and the sudden increase in his desire to break the rules. The voice is funny and young (although matured by the experience of being in the limelight) and Wayne's cunning observations concerning the lives of the rich and famous (or not-so-famous), along with his parodic portraits of real musicians, make this worth a fun, lighthearted, but clever read.
2013/Free Press/ 285 pages/ I received a copy from the publisher and another from the library. (less)
"Imagine a teacup falling on the floor and smashing into random pieces," Philip tells his class. "If you were to film this, you could run the film ba...more "Imagine a teacup falling on the floor and smashing into random pieces," Philip tells his class. "If you were to film this, you could run the film backward and see all the pieces jump back together. Obviously, you cannot do this in ordinary life -- believe me, I've tried although my wife complains that, soon, we won't have any china left." No one laughs. "The explanation for this," he continues, "is that disorder or entropy within a closed system always increases with time -- in other words, left alone, everything will decay. The teacup, which looks like such a delicate object is, in fact, a highly ordered thing. It took energy to make it that way and when the teacup breaks, some of that energy is lost and the teacup is in a disordered state" [...] "However" should the universe stop expanding and start to contract," Philip continues,"disorder or entropy would decrease and, then, like in the film played backward that I mentioned earlier, we would see broken teacups everywhere coming back together. We would also be able to remember events in the future but not remember events in the past."
I couldn't help but to quote at length from this passage about 2/3 the way through Lily Tuck's small, but powerful novel. I couldn't help it because these few pages encompassed, for this reader, what the book was about. When Nina, the narrator's, husband Philip dies, suddenly but peacefully, before dinner one night, she spends the hours before the sun comes up sitting by his side reminiscing about their marriage, the good times and the bad. As unexpected disorder interrupts an otherwise normal evening, Nina sits, putting the pieces of the fallen teacup together again. She assembles for the reader her rush of memories from the early days of their marriage to the quiet time its final days. There is everything from sensual descriptions of warm days abroad in France, and fond musings on Philip, a mathematician's, theoretical suppositions.
The book is quiet and unsentimental. Neither Nina, nor Philip, is without fault; they are both victims and perpetrators of infidelities and cruelties. And yet, the narrative is so loving, and sometimes so heart-wrenching, that there were times when I had to put down the book. When I finished, I'm not sure that I felt satisfied, or improved, or entertained, but I did feel like I had experienced something very private and very beautiful. (less)
"Our language is a language of the intricate, the peculiar, the home of pumpkins and ragamuffins and bodkins and beer, the tongue of Ahab and Falstaf...more "Our language is a language of the intricate, the peculiar, the home of pumpkins and ragamuffins and bodkins and beer, the tongue of Ahab and Falstaff and Mrs. Gamp; and while I find it entirely suitable for reflections such as these, it fails me utterly when I attempt to describe it what I love about Greek, that language innocent of all quirks and cranks; a language obsessed with action, and with the joy of seeing action multiply from action, action marching relentlessly ahead and with yet more actions sailing in from either side to fall into neat step at the rear, in a long straight rank of cause and effect toward what will be inevitable, the only possible end."
This quote is the only one that I marked in all of Donna Tartt's The Secret History, and I think it is safe to say that it is because I was enjoying the book too much to bother picking up a pen. I effusively loved this book. Of course, the quote is fitting, because what Tartt does is write a Greek tragedy in an English tradition (the Gothic), and she does it marvelously. The story begins in media res, and so the reader knows for the start that there is only one "possible end." From the first page, we know that Bunny Corcoran will die, and yet Tartt so masterfully builds suspense, piles so many actions upon actions, that we -- or at least I -- was willing to suspend all disbelief.
This is a campus novel, which is already a point on my score chart. It centers on a group of students studying ancient Greek letters in an unconventional arrangement, with an outdated professor. The narrator, Richard Papen, literary brethren of the naive and less than reliable Nick Carraway of Gatsby fame, comes along and wedges himself into the study group and into a series of strange events that will change his life, but of which he is, at first, completely unaware. Things get pretty dark in the second half of the book as we veer into the territory of the truly Greek tragic, and if I had to offer a criticism, the book does wander, sometimes at length, into a land of the fantastical. But, I have very little criticism, because I was willing to go where Tartt wanted to take me. The language is superb; although I would be loathe to say I loved them, I was certainly fascinated by the characters; and, finally, over 500 pages seemed not long enough. Please, please Donna Tartt, write another book. (less)
I had a bunch of awesome quotes from the Middlesteins marked in my e-galley, but unfortunately, I took too long to write my review, and the galley exp...moreI had a bunch of awesome quotes from the Middlesteins marked in my e-galley, but unfortunately, I took too long to write my review, and the galley expired. So, I am beginning without a quote from which to launch. The Middlesteins is getting much love from around the blogosphere, and basically, I am just adding my voice to the chorus. The book was a lot of fun. I was always excited to pick it up, and the pages flew by.
This is a family tragicomic, at the center of which is Edie Middlestein, a woman in late middle age, with two grown children, whose husband of thirty years has just left her. Edie is also morbidly obese. There are a number of point of view narrators in the book, which also zigzags back and forth in time. There is Edie, of course, her soon-to-be-ex-husband Richard, their son and daughter and daughter-in-law (Benny, Robin and Rachelle) and a surprise voice at the end. The action of the novel takes place mostly as the family prepares for Benny and Rachelle's twin son and daughter's b'nai mitzvah, as Edie prepares for a bypass surgery in her leg, and as Richard and Edie's thirty year union dissolves.
There are a few dramatic moments throughout the book, but mostly it is about the characters and how the interact with one another during a time that is difficult, maddening and delicate. Attenberg has a sense of humor and many moments in the book have a tone-lightening effect in a story that is, otherwise, quite serious. My main criticism of the book is that it may not be quite serious enough. I don't usually say things like this, but I wanted the book to have a stronger moral center, to delve deeper into the ethics of Richard's decision to leave Edie and to show the reader more of the reactions from the other characters. The book could have been twice the length that it is, which is both compliment and critique. I think that means that I fall somewhere in the middle as far as my recommendation goes.
haven't read How to be a Woman yet, although bloggers that I love rave about it; however, I was pretty excited to get a galley of Moran's book of essa...morehaven't read How to be a Woman yet, although bloggers that I love rave about it; however, I was pretty excited to get a galley of Moran's book of essays (previously published columns from the London Times), Moranthology. My favorites were about musicians: a day spent with Lady Gaga, and an interview with Keith Richards which sparked my interest in My Life. If you are a fan of funny writers and newspaper columns, I can't think of any reason you wouldn't read this.
2012/ Harper Perennial/ 256 pages/ I received a copy from the publisher and then purchased it for Kindle. (less)
I have always been a big fan of Flannery O'Connor. I love her short stories and her wonderful, weird, albeit depressing, view of the evangelical, raci...moreI have always been a big fan of Flannery O'Connor. I love her short stories and her wonderful, weird, albeit depressing, view of the evangelical, racist South of the 1940's and 50's. Wise Blood is O'Connor's first novel, and one of her first pieces of writing full stop. It tells the story of a strange and lonely man, Hazel Motes, and his attempts to found a church: The Church of Christ Without Christ. The novel is derived from a number of previously published short stories, which often seem clumsily stuck together. One of the most interesting strands is about a young man named Enoch, who for a short time becomes a follower of Hazel Motes. He claims to have "wise blood," leading him to discover a new savior, and what results is as strange as anything O'Connor has written. I think it would have been a stellar standalone story.
Unfortunately, I didn't think this was a stellar novel. There are lots of elements characteristic of all of O'Connor's work: a scathing critique of a certain type of organized religion, depiction after depiction of the grotesqueness of human kind, an allegorical feel and reliance on symbolic meanings, and elements of the Gothic. Her writing doesn't feel as effortless as in some of her later work, although I wouldn't say that O'Connor's prose is what stands out about any of her fiction. This was a slow paced read, often clunky, but what we found in my book club was that there was a lot to talk about once it was finished. The book produced one of our most lively discussions to date, and for that, I'm glad I read it.(less)
"Yes, of course we were pretentious -- what else is youth for? We used terms like 'Weltanschauung' and 'Strum and Drang', enjoyed saying, "That's phi...more "Yes, of course we were pretentious -- what else is youth for? We used terms like 'Weltanschauung' and 'Strum and Drang', enjoyed saying, "That's philosophically self-evident', and assured one another that the imagination's first duty was to be transgressive."
Julian Barnes won the Man Booker prize in 2011 for The Sense of and Ending, a very slight, very British novella, which I very much enjoyed reading. The plot centers on an event in young Tony Webster, narrator's, life, involving a friend from his school days. As Tony ages, divorces, and spends his days in rumination, the past comes back to him in the form of an ex-girlfriend and her mother's will. Through a series of events that unfold, Tony is forced to look more deeply into his own life, and to rewrite his the narrative of his youth.
The scenes from Tony's youth are a joy to read. He and his friends are lively and likeable, albeit a little pretentious (see above). Clearly, the elder Tony romanticizes his youth, making it read like any great campus novel. The first person narration in the book, is, as first person narration is wont to be, unreliable. I even thought that in parts it was unclear whether Tony's memory was reliable at all, or if maybe the thing with which he was most obsessed was beginning to fail him.
I won't spoil it, but the end of this book is a bit of a puzzle, and it is controversial I suppose. When my book club selected this book, I wasn't sure what we were going to talk about as I read it. It is a slight book, and it is a pleasant, thoughtful read, but it wasn't until the end that I knew we would have a fruitful discussion. And we did. And I recommend the book, to individual readers and book clubs alike.(less)
I have been wanting to read a little bit of YA lately, so I picked up this book, which is about a bunch of high school girls who end up on a list of t...moreI have been wanting to read a little bit of YA lately, so I picked up this book, which is about a bunch of high school girls who end up on a list of the prettiest and ugliest in their class. The story is told from all eight girl's perspectives, which is a little disorienting at first. Eventually I got into the flow of the story, but it just never really came alive for me. It was all just a little expected...The premise was interesting, but without a ton of payoff.(less)
Wonder is a middle grade novel about a boy with an extremely rare genetic disorder affecting his face. In fact, his appearance is so shocking, that hi...moreWonder is a middle grade novel about a boy with an extremely rare genetic disorder affecting his face. In fact, his appearance is so shocking, that his mother has been protecting him his whole life from the reactions of the outside world. His name is Auggie, and he has been homeschooled up until the fifth grade, but is about to embark on his first year at school. On his first day visiting his new school, he learns that several students have been assigned to help him navigate this new world. The story tells about, not only Auggie's adjustments to his new school during his first year, but also how his classmates learn to adjust, and even to befriend someone who is so different, and thus initially frightening.
The book is told from Auggie's perspective, but also from the perspectives of those around him: his sister Via, her boyfriend Justin, Auggie's friend Jack and so on. The shifting perspectives didn't bother me a bit, because it really added to the narrative to see how those around Auggie were both constantly aware of him, and totally involved in their own universes. All of the characters are likeable, and I think that Palacio does an excellent job of capturing a variety of honest and human behaviors and emotions. She also doesn't place Auggie on a pedestal; he has faults, just like everyone else.
I definitely cried while reading Wonder, and laughed. I thought it was a wonderful book about friendship, and growth, and tolerance. Highly recommended. (less)
grow to like Joyce Carol Oates more each time I read her. This wasn't my favorite book of hers, but it was a fascinating glimpse. The story is a fict...more grow to like Joyce Carol Oates more each time I read her. This wasn't my favorite book of hers, but it was a fascinating glimpse. The story is a fictional imagining of the Chappaquiddick incident, told from the perspective of a fictional female passenger, trapped in a fictional senator's car, which has driven off of a bridge. The story is told alternately in flashback, and in surreal imaginings of the young woman's thoughts in the moments before her death. The book is circular, constantly folding back on itself, and incantatory, which makes it compelling. It is a brief, but frightening, read. (less)
I am a big Persepolis fan, so I was excited to pick up another of Satrapi's graphic novels. This one is another story of Marjane's family and culture,...moreI am a big Persepolis fan, so I was excited to pick up another of Satrapi's graphic novels. This one is another story of Marjane's family and culture, this time centered around a group of women, sitting around, telling stories. It is a slight book, and bears far less weight than Persepolis. However, it is still a window into a culture and a family and it is filled with humor.(less)
I usually begin my reviews with a quote, and I had some good ones picked out from Will Schwalbe's new memoir. However, I procrastinated writing my rev...moreI usually begin my reviews with a quote, and I had some good ones picked out from Will Schwalbe's new memoir. However, I procrastinated writing my review, and in the meantime, my galley expired. Oh well.
The book is an elegy for Schawlbe's mother. She is dying of pancreatic cancer, and so her son finds himself accompanying her to her chemotherapy sessions where their conversations usually find their way to books, something that they both love and can share. And thus begins their book club, which spans the last year of the author's mother's life. The chapters in the memoir are organized by the titles of the books that the two read, from Wallace Stegner to Olive Kitteridge, and including books that serve as daily comfort for both mother and son during the period of Mary Anne's illness.
Mary Anne Schwalbe, the author's mother, is a generous and dynamic woman, and the book is as much a celebration of her life as it is anything. In the face of her own death, she exhibits nothing if not grace and selflessness, constantly worrying about the charities that she is leaving behind, and paying for the drugs of the woman in front of her in the pharmacy line. The author struggles picturing a world without her, and finds relief in reading.
This is a book lover's book, but also provides a another angle on the memoir of grief. I recommend it.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.(less)