"I don't care what Butterball.com says, the hardest part about cooking the perfect Thanksgiving dinner is avoiding the splinters of broken crack pipes that collect in the crevices of the kitchen floor. ... In our newfound resolve to be a normal couple, Jack and I had invited twenty-nine assorted hookers, drag queens, club promoters, drug dealers, and Mr. Beefeater to our Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Family Dinner."
Another from one of my favorite nonfiction genres: the zany, fucked-up, and probably highly embellished memoir. The person who inspired me to push this one up my TBR mountain was actually part of the 90's New York drag scene and totally remembers Aqua and her trademark clear plastic boobs with live goldfish swimming around in them. But as fun as the drunken club stories are, the real meat of this memoir is what goes on behind the scenes in Josh's personal life over the course of his first year in the city and his turbulent relationship with his boyfriend Jack, who just so happens to be a crack-addicted sadomasochistic escort.
There are hilarious parts (like the aforementioned Thanksgiving dinner) and heartbreaking parts (like the time Aqua gets rolled by a pair of brothers she tried to hook up with and ends up cutting her face more so she can tell people at work she was mugged). Definitely one of the best out of similar-themed memoirs I've read.(less)
I can't really pinpoint what I didn't like about this book. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't as good as it could have been, or wasn't what I expected compared to his other novels. It dragged a bit, and meandered all over the place - I would find myself spacing out, bored for pages on end, only to be grabbed back in by a particularly gripping paragraph or two, then bored out of my mind again for the next dozen pages. I also didn't really like the magical realism superhero elements - they didn't feel like a big enough part of the story to really be important, but then when I least expected it someone would put on that goddamn stupid ring and I found it jarring, and stupid to be perfectly honest.
Now for what I did like: I loved the references to the neighborhood and city as a whole, particularly in the beginning of the book. I was actually born in Gowanus, a decade or so after the time period in the book, but still prior to the massive gentrification, so I'm very familiar with the area. The feeling of the neighborhood in the book is very authentic and I appreciated the references to certain landmarks sprinkled throughout the text. I also liked the plot and storyline for the most part - the story of two kids, one black and one white, becoming best friends and subsequently growing apart; the racial tension in semi-ghetto Brooklyn in the late seventies; a coming-of-age story filled with comic books and science fiction and music and drugs. It just didn't all come together as I would have liked.
I did love that the two main characters are named Dylan and Mingus. Bob Dylan and Charles Mingus, two iconic musicians who are so different yet have so much in common when you really think about it - the parallels to Lethem's fictional characters are just so perfect. Just in those two names, Lethem speaks volumes. If only the rest of the book could be that clever.(less)
I'm getting pickier about YA lit these days, but I really enjoyed this one. Definitely reminiscent of The Catcher in the Rye -- the protagonist, James...moreI'm getting pickier about YA lit these days, but I really enjoyed this one. Definitely reminiscent of The Catcher in the Rye -- the protagonist, James Sveck, is basically a somewhat-closeted gay Holden Caulfield -- but I loved Catcher, so I thought this was great too. (less)
I think I would have liked this more if I had read it when I was a pre-teen or young teenager. This is one of those "hardship makes you stronger", "po...moreI think I would have liked this more if I had read it when I was a pre-teen or young teenager. This is one of those "hardship makes you stronger", "poor is wholesome" books that almost seems to glorify poverty. I'm just too jaded at this point in my life to buy into that romantic idealism, though I really enjoyed books with similar themes when I was a younger.
That said, I did enjoy this. I love books that take place in New York, Brooklyn particularly, since that's where I'm from and it's fun to recognize landmarks, local slang, etc. in the story. Since this is set at the very beginning of the twentieth century, just after Brooklyn was consolidated into New York City, I found it especially interesting. The city portrayed here is so different: streetcars, penny candy stores, tenement buildings. These glimpses into turn-of-the-century Williamsburg were my favorite parts.
So I have somehow gone my entire life without ever seeing the movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany's, but I did see the play on Broadway a few months...moreSo I have somehow gone my entire life without ever seeing the movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany's, but I did see the play on Broadway a few months ago. I'd heard the stage version was much truer to the book than the movie, so I figured I should get around to reading it.
This is a slim little novella, so it didn't take more than an hour or two. I enjoyed it, and I understand why it's a classic, and... maybe it's just because I knew the story already (because the play was pretty true to the book), but somehow I expected something more. Still, it's a little dark, pretty funny, and Holly is a great, complicated character. She's awful and selfish exciting and sympathetic and fun. She fascinated me.
The edition I got from the library also includes 3 of Capote's short stories. I haven't read those yet, but will update when I do!
So I've read the short stories! I sometimes have trouble with short stories, because there often isn't enough for me to really sink my teeth into -- once I've gotten into the story, I turn the page and it's over. Still, these were pretty good. I'd say "House of Flowers" was my least favorite of the three, because there was a lot going on in it and the language was a bit difficult to follow, so I found my attention wavering periodically. I enjoyed the other two stories, "A Diamond Guitar" and "A Christmas Memory" more, but they didn't blow me away or anything.(less)
I wanted to read this for two reasons: 1) I'd heard a lot about theme of androgyny in this novel, and how the protagonist is never identified as male...moreI wanted to read this for two reasons: 1) I'd heard a lot about theme of androgyny in this novel, and how the protagonist is never identified as male or female, gay or straight, and that really intrigued me; and 2) It's set in Brooklyn. You guys know I'm a sucker for local geography.
It definitely delivered on both of those counts, but I don't know how much more I got out of it. If the main character had a less unique or ambiguous identity, or the setting lacked those familiar landmarks, this would just have been an average YA novel. (less)
I've been meaning to read this book for ages. I first heard about it in my early teenage years, probably in a biography of Courtney Love or something...moreI've been meaning to read this book for ages. I first heard about it in my early teenage years, probably in a biography of Courtney Love or something like that. Well, it's taken me nearly a decade but I finally got around to it, and I really wish I hadn't waited.
Centering around the lives of three girls in the late 1940's through early 60's, Valley of the Dolls explores the word of celebrity and glamour in mid-century New York and Hollywood. Parts of each character are modeled on Jacqueline Susann's own life -- there's Anne, the naive suburban girl who comes to the big city as a secretary looking for true love and accidentally ends up as a spokesmodel; Neely, small-time Vaudeville kid turned huge movie star with an attitude (and drug addiction) to match; and Jennifer, who is absolutely gorgeous and loved around the world for her body, but is totally empty inside. Each of them find success and rise to the top... but that just makes it a harder fall to rock bottom.
There's as much sex, drugs, and scandal as you would expect. It's also incredibly depressing at times -- I teared up more than once. Sure, it's a little bit trashy, but that just makes it more delicious. I can definitely see why this is considered a cult classic, and it's a new favorite of mine as well.(less)
This book is really aimed at younger readers, but I had heard so much about it I decided to give it a try and see what all the fuss was. Turns out it'...moreThis book is really aimed at younger readers, but I had heard so much about it I decided to give it a try and see what all the fuss was. Turns out it's good enough for adults to enjoy too.
When You Reach Me tells the story of Miranda, a sixth grade girl living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the late seventies. Her life is fairly normal - her mother hates her paralegal job and hopes to be a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid, her best friend Sal lives in the apartment below her, and her biggest problems in the world are what to build for her class's Main Street diorama and how to best avoid the crazy rambling guy on the corner. But then she starts getting weird notes written on scraps of paper that predict events in the future and give rise to a fantastic mystery about the possibility of time travel.
It's difficult to write about time travel in a way that a young audience will understand and enjoy, but Stead does it very well. The timeline of the book progresses in such a way that we have to solve the puzzle along with Miranda, and I was riveted the whole time and didn't really figure it out until near the end. It was great watching all the pieces fall into place. Stead avoids falling into time travel paradoxes and pitfalls that many authors do (in fact, one character points out a "mistake" in A Wrinkle in Time, but it's all in good fun - it's clear the book is a bit of an homage to Madeline L'Engle's work).
All in all, it's just a really excellent bit of light reading that can be enjoyed at any age. It's brief enough to read in one sitting, but you'll be thinking about the puzzle long after.(less)
This isn't a trilogy in the usual sense. The three novels are completely different stories, but they are thematically and stylistically similar and it...moreThis isn't a trilogy in the usual sense. The three novels are completely different stories, but they are thematically and stylistically similar and it makes sense to read them together, since they do have vague connections in the end. There are recurring names, but they're not the same people. Just names.
The stories start off as fairly straightforward detective noir, but the surreal quality and postmodern touches definitely build with each installment. I enjoyed these books quite a bit, as reflected by my rating, but I'm not sure I understood it all, especially near the end. This one will probably be worth a re-read eventually.(less)
Holy fuck. Much like Warren Ellis's previous novel, Crooked Little Vein, this grabbed me by the throat from the first chapter and didn't let go until...moreHoly fuck. Much like Warren Ellis's previous novel, Crooked Little Vein, this grabbed me by the throat from the first chapter and didn't let go until the end. I read it in two sittings over the space of about twelve hours--it was so gripping that I could only force myself to put it down once. This is an author that can definitely do suspense well.
Still, there's something about it that's a bit flawed. The entire thing requires so much suspension of disbelief that it's ridiculous. The concept itself is completely absurd, the dialogue is always a little too clever, and the characters are so badass as to be comical. It's a thrilling read if you can just go along for the ride, but if you stop and think about it at any point it comes off as really contrived. Still, it was fun while it lasted!(less)
This was my first Paul Auster novel, and I went into it not knowing quite what to expect. That was probably a good thing, since this first installment...moreThis was my first Paul Auster novel, and I went into it not knowing quite what to expect. That was probably a good thing, since this first installment of The New York Trilogy mostly defies categorization. It's part classic detective noir, part postmodern metafiction, with lots of surreal bits all around. I found something about this story very compelling while reading it, though it's nowhere near as suspenseful as most thrillers or hard boiled mysteries. While there were lots of good parts, both witty little moments and beautifully written, emotive sections, the experience of reading this was like a slow burn, rather than being one of those novels that's super engaging and makes a big impact when you're done. I also found the ending a bit predictable. Still, I'm curious to see where the other books in the trilogy will take me.(less)
This is a completely different novel than City of Glass, but it follows similar themes. Once again, this is at its heart a detective story wit...morePart 2!
This is a completely different novel than City of Glass, but it follows similar themes. Once again, this is at its heart a detective story with a postmodern twist. However, unlike the first book in the New York Trilogy--where the surreal and uneasy feeling grows gradually--in this installment, it's immediate from the first page that this is going to be a playful, unique novel when we're introduced to the characters who all have color names. (I briefly wondered if this might be an inspiration for the film Reservoir Dogs, but that's really the only thing the two have in common.)
There's also an emphasis on writers, here, and writing itself as an art is a big theme throughout the narrative. I feel like the themes here aren't as obvious as in the first story, though, and the story is more vague and open to interpretation. I may not have gotten it all, but I definitely enjoyed the reading experience.(less)
This is probably the least detective-y of the three novels, but it too centers around one man's private investigation that gradually sp...morePart the third!
This is probably the least detective-y of the three novels, but it too centers around one man's private investigation that gradually spirals out of control. It also involves two more writers.
I enjoyed reading this one as much as the two previous novels, but I don't think it stuck with me as well. I read it most recently of the three and already many details are fading. As with the others, I found the twists were fairly predictable and the ending was ultimately unsatisfying. I might actually have to lower this one to three stars.(less)