When I'm in need of a good laugh and a quick page turner, I turn to Carl Hiassen. Best vacation reading ever. Bad Monkey is classic Hiassen--we've got...moreWhen I'm in need of a good laugh and a quick page turner, I turn to Carl Hiassen. Best vacation reading ever. Bad Monkey is classic Hiassen--we've got another scheming real estate developer set on ransacking the Florida landscape and a bad boy protagonist who takes on the pillaging bastards, not always using the most upstanding methods. This book is a wild ride, complete with a severed arm, a hot coroner, a Voodoo witch doctor in a motorized wheelchair, and, of course, a bad monkey. Definitely not for the faint of heart--don't read this unless you're ready for full immersion into tawdriness. If that sounds fun, you're going to like this one! (less)
I first started reading The Fault in Our Stars last year but then put it down because a book with terminally ill characters hit a little too close to...moreI first started reading The Fault in Our Stars last year but then put it down because a book with terminally ill characters hit a little too close to home. (I lost my dad to esophageal cancer in 2011.) Now that I've read it, I can say that I love how John Green makes nerdiness so very cool and sexy. I love that he creates dynamic teen characters who are smart, sassy, irreverant, and kind--and, oh yeah, have cancer. I did not love the soliloquizing of the main characters at the beginning of the novel--this felt heavy-handed and unrealistic to me. However, I couldn't get too irritated because right after one of these long, heady speeches, our narrator Hazel would make a joke about the cancer support group that takes place in the church basement, and it would be really, really funny. Once the romance began in earnest and Augustus & Hazel got their wish, I was totally hooked in and rooting for them both. I really appreciate that in this novel John Green was able to create a little levity amidst tragedy AND remind us of the fragility & gorgeousness of each day. (less)
A very, very funny memoir, especially towards the beginning. Her life in free-fall after her husband of fifteen years leaves her for a man he met on G...moreA very, very funny memoir, especially towards the beginning. Her life in free-fall after her husband of fifteen years leaves her for a man he met on Gay.com, Ms. Janzen goes home to live with her Mennonite parents. At 43, Janzen had strayed from her conservative upbringing: she wears Manolo Blahniks, sports a PhD in literature from UCLA and keeps her last name when she marries. So when she gets post-divorce dating advice from her mother that involves dating her first cousin Waldemar, I laughed. Hard. (Why Waldemar? He drives a tractor and has a good work ethic.)
As I read, I wasn't sure how Janzen pulled off some of the descriptions of her family without alienating all of them. Of her mother (the hands-down star of the book), she writes, "Besides being born Mennonite, which is usually its own beauty strike, my mother has no neck. When we were growing up, our mother's head, sprouting directly from her shoulders like a friendly lettuce, became something of a family focus." Hmm...in addition to the lettuce head, maybe her mother also has very thick skin? And a very generous spirit.
If the pile of books next to your bed is stacked high, this one probably does not need to move to the top of the heap. That is, unless you need a good mid-life-crisis laugh. If so, move it to the top. (less)
Quentin is a high school senior growing up in a central Florida town. He doesn't play in the band but hangs with the band crowd, trying to fly under t...moreQuentin is a high school senior growing up in a central Florida town. He doesn't play in the band but hangs with the band crowd, trying to fly under the radar and avoid the horrors inflicted on his kind by the cool kids. He is in love with his neighbor Margot Roth Spiegelman, the girl who has entranced him since childhood with her bold & mysterious ways. When she comes to his window dressed as a ninja and summons him on an adventure, he obeys. The next day, Margot disappears. He tries to find her following clues she has left behind, a blend of references to Walt Whitman, Woody Guthrie, and abandoned subdivisions. As his search for Margot deepens, he begins to understand all that he doesn't know about her.
Quentin's voice feels authentic in a goofy, seventeen-year-old boy kind of way, which makes the language less than poetic in places, especially in the first 2/3 of the novel. As he gains insight, his narrative voice becomes more graceful. The guy is downright poetic in the last few chapters.
As much as I enjoyed the plot-line of the novel--I was definitely turning the pages to find out what had happened to Margot--I think I enjoyed even more the meditation on place. What does it mean to come of age in the suburban United States with all of the subdivisions and mini-malls that look disorientingly the same? A major part of Margot's crisis has to do with a search for authenticity. She's trying to get away from the fakeness of the 'paper towns' but they are all she's ever known.
Is Margot alive? If so, does she even want to be found? What about Quentin? Does he really know who Margot Roth Spielman is? How will the search for Margot change Quentin? All these questions and more await Paper Towns readers.
Harriet observes the world around her and documents everything she sees in her notebook. She spies on a range of people in her life and takes copious...moreHarriet observes the world around her and documents everything she sees in her notebook. She spies on a range of people in her life and takes copious notes about the good, the bad, and the terribly boring. She keeps tabs on her neighbors including the wealthy woman in her apartment building who lies in bed all day talking on the phone, the loud family that owns the corner grocery store--and her friends. Harriet doesn’t hold back in her notebooks, and she gets into big trouble with her classmates when they read some of the more uncharitable lines she has written about them.
Over the course of the novel, Harriet learns some tough lessons about how to balance her candid take on the world with her need for friendship. Though Harriet the Spy was published in the 1960s, the novel will still appeal to readers today, especially those who like a laugh and anyone trying to figure out how to be honest while maintaining friendships. Not a bad lesson for the Facebook generation. (less)
At the recommendation of his doctor, Bertie Wooster takes a trip to the country. He is supposed to be cutting back on the drinking and smoking and ins...moreAt the recommendation of his doctor, Bertie Wooster takes a trip to the country. He is supposed to be cutting back on the drinking and smoking and instead breathing in the country air, but gets caught up in a maelstrom of events involving his aged relative, a horse named Potato Chip, and a cat that gets stolen more than once. Jeeves sorts most things out with aplomb when Bertie can't think straight (which is most of the time.) With the assistance of Jeeves, Bertie averts disembowelment and a disastrous engagement. Anglophiles, be prepared for pure delight with this one! (less)
Two narrators, both named Will Grayson, live their lives in an emotional state of paralysis in the suburbs of Chicago. They do not know each other and...moreTwo narrators, both named Will Grayson, live their lives in an emotional state of paralysis in the suburbs of Chicago. They do not know each other and have little in common until their lives intersect outside of an unlikely spot in Chicago. They are unwittingly brought together by an enormous football player/ high school student/producer/ director/ actor/ drama queen named Tiny Cooper. Tiny is in the midst of writing and producing a high school musical about his own life, and both Will Grayson and Will Grayson achieve epiphanies as the musical approaches opening night.
This novel is co-written by John Green (author of Looking for Alaska) and David Levithan (author of Boy Meets Boy and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) and the two alternate chapters taking on the voice of one of the Will Graysons. Take the cynicism and dark humor of a high school depressive and blend it with the camp, drama and queeniness of a high school musical, and you've got Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I can't recommend it highly enough! (less)
Technically, this is a YA novel, but I've got a hunch that it's a bigger hit with adult readers. This is a classic coming-of-age story that chronicles...moreTechnically, this is a YA novel, but I've got a hunch that it's a bigger hit with adult readers. This is a classic coming-of-age story that chronicles Jacob Green's trials navigating his aggressive, controlling father, his parents' disintegrating marriage, and problems at school. He finds comfort (maybe a little something else?) from his sexy babysitter who likes to give back-scratches, all the while going back and forth between admiration and confusion at his brother's rebellion against their (sorta) Orthodox Jewish upbringing. I practically peed my pants laughing a few times only to have my heart torn out on the next page with the agonies of this fifteen-year old boy's existence. Check it out--you might like it. (less)
The summer before her senior year, Beatrice moves to a new town as her academic father chases the next best thing in university life. She hopes to mak...moreThe summer before her senior year, Beatrice moves to a new town as her academic father chases the next best thing in university life. She hopes to make a friend or two and maybe get a grip on her mother's increasingly bizarre behavior. She ends up becoming friends with the social outcast at her Baltimore private school, and they enter into something that's not exactly a romance, but deeper & more enmeshed than an everyday friendship. For anyone with an affinity for weird kids (or who identifies as a weird kid), Beatrice is a terrific new voice in the literary landscape. Other books may depict teenage outsiders who are cutters or drug addicts, and that's all fine, but Beatrice doesn't go down any such paths. She's true to herself, listening to late night radio on the AM dial, explaining happiness in terms of Icelandic hairdressers, and dressing up as a beheaded John the Baptist. Check her out. (less)