The fact that Ann Rule personally knew Ted Bundy, before and after he committed his horrific crimes, adds extra context and insights into the Ted BundThe fact that Ann Rule personally knew Ted Bundy, before and after he committed his horrific crimes, adds extra context and insights into the Ted Bundy story. He was a man she had known as ambitious and caring and sensitive; she had a hard time imagining he was the same person capable of assaulting and murdering women. That is perhaps why Bundy is one of the most fascinating serial killers; he appeared outwardly "normal," even during the times he was committing his crimes. More so than other serial killers, he seemed to lead a double life, in which his two lives were at extreme odds. I enjoyed Rule's analysis of Bundy based on what she knew about the man. This book was written in 1980, giving it an "in the moment" feel that other books written since then lack. The story is immediate and gripping as a result. ...more
Frankie Neumann doesn’t fit in. He feels like an interloper in his family. His mother is a Frank Sinatra impersonator, his dad moonlights as Frank N’Frankie Neumann doesn’t fit in. He feels like an interloper in his family. His mother is a Frank Sinatra impersonator, his dad moonlights as Frank N’ Furter in the local theater’s production of “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and his little sister, Lou, got all the performing and acting genes.
Frankie, a junior at Henderson High in a nondescript suburb of Minneapolis, doesn’t fit in at school, either. He’s a loner who’d rather wryly observe those around him than actually interact with them. Even from his workstation at Pizza Vendetta, he has a clear view of the entire joint but can stay removed from the action as he stands behind the glass partition making pizzas.
He has outlets, but they’re secret. He’s a promising artist, but does his work in the third floor of his old house, a floor that used to be a ballroom but now is just a storage space that no one uses except for Frankie. There, he inserts monsters into thrift store paintings and lovingly creates a mannequin he names Donna Russell. Some kids have a security blanket or a stuffed animal; Frankie has Donna.
Toward the end of his junior year, Frankie gets a surprise visit while at work at Pizza Vendetta. It’s David, a mysterious, owlish boy who wears skirts. David, a freshman, is cousin to Rory, Frankie’s crush from his Spanish class. David and Rory have heard that Frankie drives an old delivery truck. They want him and his truck to help them complete their projects—street art created by their famous Bansky-like uncle, Uncle Epic.
Frankie agrees and adventure ensues. David, Frankie, and Rory undertake Uncle Epic’s installations under the cover of darkness while trying to elude police and sneak past parents. At the same time, Frankie learns a secret about Lou. He’s thrilled to have the upper hand on his pesky sister, who’s two years younger and has been a thorn in Frankie’s side his entire life. He think’s Lou is the “chosen one,” his parents’ favorite who can do no wrong. But the ways in which she’s wronged Frankie are endless, at least in his mind.
So Frankie completes a street art series on his own, later with help from David, to get revenge on his sister and to try to “out” her secret. But the street art goes too far, especially when Rory gets involved, and Lou’s safety is compromised. Will Frankie’s guilt get the best of him? When Uncle Epic gets involved, Frankie worries the famous artist’s cover will be blown, all thanks to him.
“Original Fake” truly is original. These are well-rounded characters who are doing things that would appeal to young adult readers interested in art, creativity, originality, and themes of fitting in and family. This is Kirstin Cronn-Mills’ third young adult book, and she continues to nail the teenage voice and psyche. As I read Frankie’ first-person narration, I thought of all the teenage boys I know and how Frankie sounds and acts just like them.
I also appreciated Cronn-Mills’ depiction of Frankie and Lou’s sibling bond. These two do not like each other. Frankie has a litany of complaints about Lou since the day his parents brought her home, and Lou picks up on Frankie’s disregard for her. The two are constantly hurling insults at each other, making their parents roll their eyes and wring their hands. I don’t have teenagers, but I’d imagine that type of clash rings pretty true.
The novel is supported by illustrations by E. Eero Johnson, a prolific artist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, and Wired magazine, among other places. The illustrations give life to the characters. We see Frankie’s shaggy teen boy mop, David’s round glasses and skirts, Lou’s tutus, and Rory’s flirtatious cuteness. The illustrations are peppered throughout, though in a couple of places we get page-length comic book layouts. Even on the pages without illustrations, a splash of color signifies space breaks, and some pages have color on the edge meant to look like a torn page.
"Original Fake" is a literary and visual feast, sure to please young adult readers looking for an original storyline. The teenagers in the book flirt with trouble, but at heart are good kids just trying to figure out their places in life. ...more
The tone of this book is highly conversational. I felt like Barry Moser was sitting next to me, telling me his stories. But what would be fine in convThe tone of this book is highly conversational. I felt like Barry Moser was sitting next to me, telling me his stories. But what would be fine in conversation doesn't translate well to memoir.
This book read like a collection of anecdotes--stories that might be interesting to family members, or those who grew up in Chattanooga in the 1940s/1950s, but I found it hard to connect. About halfway through the book I wanted to stop because it didn't seem like the story that was promised on the book jacket or in the blurbs was ever going to appear.
This is billed as a book that examines a sibling relationship. When siblings grow up in the same environment, how does one explain how they become radically different in adulthood? We see a lot of Barry and Tommy growing up, and we see some of their fights, but Moser doesn't ever drill deep to figure out what's going on. Again, we get anecdotes but not a lot of reflection or examination.
The book starts out promising, and the end provides some musing, but the reflection upon the anecdotes is completely missing.
I also am not clear as to what's behind the deep racism of the Moser family. Maybe it's just enough to know that the boys grew up in the South in the Jim Crow era. Maybe I don't need more explanation than that. But one puzzling thing is never explained: Moser's mother had a dear friend from childhood who was black. They remained good friends through adulthood. That the mother in a racist household would have a black friend is never really examined. How did the mother's husband feel about this? The rest of her family? The neighbors? Why wasn't Vernetta's presence enough to help the children see that racism wasn't the answer?
There's a lot of potential in this memoir, but it reads like an early draft. More editing would have helped to tease out the reflection that's needed, especially in the middle of the book. ...more
I picked up this book because I kept hearing multiple writers and readers sing its praises. I was not disappointed.
This small, quiet novel reveals theI picked up this book because I kept hearing multiple writers and readers sing its praises. I was not disappointed.
This small, quiet novel reveals the extraordinary that is housed within all of us. I admire how the story shed light on an often forgotten segment of our population: the retired widow/widower. Addie and Louis find each other and develop a poignant relationship. It's a second chance for each of them, as they recount the missteps of their first marriages. They even get a chance to raise a child for a short time, when Addie's grandson comes to live with her for the summer. This is also a second opportunity, as the relationships Addie and Louis have with their adult children are fraught with tension.
For anyone who has ever feared being alone in old age, or feared they would never get a second chance to do things right, here's a book that offers hope. It's a slim book, easily read in a day or two. The best thing about that: many chances to reread, which I cannot wait to do. I have a feeling more nuances and layers will be revealed each time I read it....more
I had the pleasure of meeting Judith Guest last week and I was inspired to read this classic for the first time. I loved the quiet, yet powerful, lookI had the pleasure of meeting Judith Guest last week and I was inspired to read this classic for the first time. I loved the quiet, yet powerful, look into family dynamics that occur after a tragedy. Guest captured perfectly, at least to me, the thoughts and actions of a young man who is struggling with growing up at the same time struggling with massive guilt and pain after his brother's death. Conrad was portrayed with depth and feeling. I wanted to give him a hug, tell him that everything will be all right. Guest also nicely captured the father's pain and struggles.
Prior to reading I knew the basic story of the book, primarily through brief glimpses of the film. I know Mary Tyler Moore was praised for her performance as the mother, and that led me to believe the mother plays a pretty major role in the story. I was surprised to see in the book that it is Cal's story and Conrad's story: the mother's story is only told through them. She's not as big of a character as I had thought. In a way, I wanted to know a little more about her. She doesn't seem to have many good qualities, and I didn't like her. But I think her perspective would have bogged down the story. I like the choice Guest made of having the story told through Cal's and Conrad's point of view....more
Throughout her memoir, M Train, she writes of her dreams—vivid, touching, and full of meaning. A cowboy is a recurrinI want to dream like Patti Smith.
Throughout her memoir, M Train, she writes of her dreams—vivid, touching, and full of meaning. A cowboy is a recurring dream character, and he serves as a sort of mentor, helping Patti to see what she should do.
The dreams alone testify to Patti’s creativity, not to mention her music, her photography, and her writing.
I’m a fast reader, but this was not a book I could blow through. M Train forced me to slow down, to truly savor each word. The story was not going to be apparent on first glance. Now that I’ve finished the book, I’m still trying to determine the story.
It’s a story without a narrative. Each chapter reads like an essay. Some through lines exist to ground the reader, such as her beloved Café Ino and her beloved Fred. Fred, her husband, died some years before but unlike a more traditional memoir, dates and the passage of time is fuzzy. I don’t know how long they were married or when he died. I don’t know how old she was when he died or how old their children were. But I don’t need to. The lack of details lets me focus on Patti’s grief. I read reviews of M Train before I started it, and I was led to believe that the book focused more in-depth on Patti’s losses, such as Fred and one month later, her brother. But Fred gets only rare mentions. We get a brief, fleeting glimpse of him and then he’s gone until the next time. But that light touch is beautiful. A writer should always leave readers wanting more, not less.
The book has nineteen chapters, some of which are stronger than others. I marked several that read like perfect essays: steady themes, ends that circles back to beginnings, lyrical writing, brilliant observations. Others are not so strong and I found myself drifting. At times, her detailed descriptions of her travels get a little long. And one thing I noticed that became almost comical as I made my way through the book: Patti’s obsession with describing what she’s eating. In one 12-page chapter, she eats a falafel, bean soup, corn muffin, marinated beans, dark bread dipped in olive oil, and powdered doughnuts.
I like this woman. She likes coffee and cafés. She likes to travel and take photographs. I love that she loves to sit at home, or in a hotel room, and watch television. Television is not too “lowbrow” for her: she can’t get enough of TV detective shows. This made me feel better about my dependency at times on TV.
This was not a quick read. It took me several weeks to finish the book. M Train demanded a certain level of reverence, which I rarely find in a book. It demanded that I read it in complete silence (so reading at home was rarely an option). I first opened it while in a coffee shop, which felt like the perfect setting. At that moment I had time enough to read one chapter, and that, too, felt like the appropriate amount to read in one sitting. So I continued to take the book to coffee shops, reading one chapter at a time. I was reading more than words; it seemed that I was enveloping myself in a piece of performance art. I wasn’t just reading words to process a story. The book truly felt like art, more so than any other book I’ve read.
So what is this book about? Now that I’ve thought about this, I can answer that question. It’s a book about endings. It’s about aging (“Sixty-six, I thought, what the hell.”). It’s about lost things: objects, dreams, people, cafés. It’s about solitude. It’s about navigating a world that you know, but also it’s a world you don’t know because so much has changed. It’s dark, meditative, quiet, soulful. Read it, contemplate what Patti has to say, enjoy it, underline passages, return to it again and again—that’s what I plan to do.
I'm a fan of the classic FEAR OF FLYING, so I was expecting a similar identification when I read this book. But unfortunately, I struggled to finish iI'm a fan of the classic FEAR OF FLYING, so I was expecting a similar identification when I read this book. But unfortunately, I struggled to finish it. For one thing, it was so "talky." Much of it seemed to be the narrator's stream-of-consciousness, unconnected, random thoughts. Very little is set in scene.
The problem may be me. I did not like the narrator. As a Midwesterner, I have a very difficult time identifying with a New York Upper-East-Side type of person -- rich beyond rich, a frequent visitor to the therapist, and condescending. Perhaps it didn't help that Vanessa visited Minnesota when her daughter went to Hazelden and didn't think much of the state.
I also made the mistake of reading a review and was led to believe Vanessa was an uninhibited character seeking hedonism before she got too old. I'll be frank: I liked Isadora's flings in FEAR OF FLYING. There's hardly any of that in this book; don't let reviews lead you to believe there are. Vanessa tries a couple of hookups but ends up meeting only crazy perverts.
The book focuses more on Vanessa's role as both a mother and a daughter of aging parents. The title is quite reflective of the book's tone -- it makes me feel pretty pessimistic about aging. Perhaps if I were older, this book would have resonated with me more. But I think I still more closely identify with Isadora than with Vanessa. If you are 50 or younger, give FEAR OF FLYING another read before tackling this one. ...more
In Jesse Goolsby’s “I’d Walk With My Friends If I Could Find them,” we see the how the fallout of war reverberates not only in the lives of three men,In Jesse Goolsby’s “I’d Walk With My Friends If I Could Find them,” we see the how the fallout of war reverberates not only in the lives of three men, but also through their families for years to come.
The book starts in Afghanistan, and we see the chaos and humanity through three characters—Dax, Torres, and Wintric. Then we go back in time and get the characters’ backstories, seeing where these men came from. The end of the book projects into the future, so we get to see the trajectories their lives take. The result is a well-rounded character study of each man. They each are damaged, yet tender. But we also see the men as others see them, namely through the wives, daughters, and sons in their lives.
The understated tension kept me reading and I progressed through the book quickly. Will she stay or go? Will he kill or not? Despite his damaged body, will he find love that night? I never quite knew what the characters were going to do. Their experiences made their actions completely unpredictable. Can they keep it together? Or has the war totally unhinged them? Are they finally going to reach a breaking point and if so, what is that going to look like?
The scene with Wintric and his three-year-old son is the book’s most disturbing, yet captivating. It struck me as a very real situation, though one people probably would never talk about.
I often stumbled upon beautiful passages: “Dax had never considered choosing between flame and gravity, but watching the people fall to their deaths, weighing which way to die, he guessed he would pick gravity.” Or as one character says to another, “We’re only what we’ve been. What you want to be means nothing.” Almost every chapter ended on a brilliant, poignant note.
The writing and the stories pulled me in. I was sad to leave the characters, but it’s always good when a book ends leaving you wanting more. ...more
PILLARS OF THE EARTH is one of my favorite epic books. I don't read a lot of fiction, but this summer when I was thinking of my favorite novels they aPILLARS OF THE EARTH is one of my favorite epic books. I don't read a lot of fiction, but this summer when I was thinking of my favorite novels they are generally large, sprawling epics (POTE, The Stand, Roots). So I thought, Why not get back to that? WORLD WITHOUT END has been on my bookshelf for a long time, and I thought it was time to get lost in an epic again.
I didn't enjoy it as much as POTE, but it still was a good story that kept me reading. My only complaint is that a few characters are a little one-dimensional. Ralph, for example, is almost pure evil. But most of the characters have both their good and bad sides, including the main characters of Caris and Merthin.
The book raised my ire at how women were treated in medieval Europe. So often I felt like the world was against Caris, Gwenda, and Philippa. How would I have reacted in a similar situation? I would hope with the same type of grace and patience that the female characters displayed.
I'm such an Anglophile and this book did not disappoint. I highly recommend it for history buffs, especially those with a fascination with England....more