Archive | February, 2015

That Cuckoo’s Nest is Falling Apart

24 Feb

I am really desperate for a “knock your socks off” novel after reading Laura Van Den Berg’s Find Me. Not that it was horrible, it was just not everything that I had hoped it would be.

find me

Here is the premise: the world is struck by a horrible plague, presenting itself as silver blisters followed by a complete loss of memory followed by a grisly death. In the early part of the outbreak, people who appear to be immune to the disease are gathered up and installed in an abandoned psychiatric hospital in Kansas so that a group of doctors could monitor and study them in the hopes of finding a cure. Joy Jones is one of these lucky few – but quickly finds that life in the hospital is its own sort of weird/horrible. This half of the novel reminded me SO much of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and, slightly less, Blindness  by Jose Saramago. I thought it was interesting. It held my attention, I was curious about where it was going and who would turn out to be the villain. AND THEN it completely switched gears and became something totally different in the second half. And that “totally different” was even stranger, more discombobulating than the first half. The first half of the novel I was searching for time to read, the second half I keep thinking of things I’d rather be doing. Like laundry.  Or dishes. 3 stars.

Villains Play Chess…

17 Feb

Man, I feel like such a slacker. I am sorely behind on my reading, but here are two things I just finished that are out now.get in trouble

This woman has been getting a TON of buzz. Maybe it’s because her first collection was a huge hit – maybe because it has taken her almost 10 years to get this second collection out. She is kind of bizarre – all of her stories have at least one sci-fi, fantasy-ish element. I really loved two or three of the six or seven stories. There were some that were ok and one that I just didn’t like. In two stories, there were Superheroes. In one story they were the stars of the story and in another, they were just passing occurrences. In both stories, the bad ones played chess. My favorite story was the first one, Summer People (mostly because it had a big splash of an ending – those are my favorites), about a young girl living in the type of town where people come just for the summer. She, however, stays all year round and her particular job is to take care of one house with some magic, elf like people living in it. They create these crazy toys that come to life and have a teeny war going on in their living room with mini cannons, tiny soldiers etc. The only catch is that the girl is stuck taking care of them forever. And then it goes twisty. Like many people, I don’t read a ton of short stories. But I have read some REALLY GREAT ones in the past few years (The News from Spain and also The Other Language) so I find myself looking for that next great collection. And while I thought Get in Trouble was good, I think I’ll keep looking for that next great one. 3.5 stars


I knew this one would be dark (despite the bright white cover). I really liked the other David Vann novel I’ve read – Caribou Island – one of the darkest darker ones out there ending with a smash bang bow and arrow scene. So I was expecting dark. But guys, this was DARK. The story is about a 12-year-old girl named Caitlin being raised by her single mom Sheri. They are poor poor and Caitlin spends a lot of time alone – alone at school 2 hours early because her mom has to get in to work, alone after school for 3 or 4 hours because her mom still works, alone at home while her mom goes on dates. After school, to fill the time before her mom gets off work, Caitlin walks a long, scary walk to the local Aquarium. One day, she strikes up a conversation with an older man, a gentleman she’s seen a few days in a row. They strike up an unlikely friendship. And that sounds like it might be the makings of an uplifting, tender story but woah does David Vann do a number with these characters. At the end I really didn’t like anyone. It was incredibly intense. 3.5 stars

An Abundance of Heroines

1 Feb

This is not usually the sort of thing that I like, these books about books. Maybe I’ve just never found one that hit so many of my literary pressure points.

how to be a heroine

(Another great cover)

Samantha Ellis, daughter of Iraqi-Jewish refugees, (true story) gets into a debate with her best friend about Cathy from Wuthering Heights and Jane from Jane Eyre: which is the better heroine? Samantha has always loved Cathy – always tried to live her life as she felt Cathy would have – while her friend is firmly in the Jane camp. This prompts the author to go back to her many childhood favorites, reread them all and reexamine the strength of their heroines (and how her impressions of them now differ from those of her youth). The reason I so loved this is because many of the novels she talks about are ones that I’ve read. I found myself skimming over the parts that talked about novels I was unfamiliar with. Even so, I have a fairly long list of books I’d like to look into, including Emily of New Moon by L.M Montgomery, Riders by Jilly Cooper, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons and Jamaica Inn by Du Maurier. I was incredibly more impressed with the author’s discussion/insights into these novels and less so with her own personal story, which was given less time and detail. Overall, I thought this was really entertaining and felt like an old friend. Set to hit shelves 2/3/15.  3.5 stars.