Archive | August, 2016

Sweeping Plots and Lots of LOLs

25 Aug

nix

Nathan Hill’s The Nix reminded me of a mash-up of Garp and Owen Meany – a fresher, funnier John Irving (is that possible??). The general premise is this: A young English professor at a small college realizes that the mother who left him as a child is all over the news for throwing rocks at a polarizing political figure (think Trump). And now, after decades of not knowing where she is or what she’s been doing, the professor must find her and uncover her life’s story. Samuel, our professor, is great. But also great are the oodles of supporting characters. I read the entire 4th chapter out loud to Loren, cry-laughing harder than I had in a long time. I’ll tell you about the 4th chapter just to make sure you go out and pick this up when it comes out on the 30th. Samuel discovers that one of his students has plagiarized 98% of a term paper (the only thing original? her name) and he calls her into his office to let her know that he’s going to fail her. This girl tries every excuse in the books, starting with flat out denial, cruising through arguments like “well, I paid for it, so technically it is MY work,” and ending with a frenzied crescendo (and maybe the longest run on sentence in the history of the novel) covering everything from the stress of college dating to her mother’s impending deathbed. Of course, this ends with buckets of tears. Samuel, whose inner dialogue is hilarious during these attempts, happens to be a sympathy crier. Meaning that any time ANYONE starts crying around him, he becomes a sobbing mess himself. So, here is this girl crying in his office, after plagiarizing an entire term paper, and he finds himself getting read to let loose a giant tearful sob. In his childhood, one of this school counselors offered up the idea that instead of succumbing to tears, he should try to laugh instead. Right when young Laura (I think that was her name) says “….and my mother is DYING” or something to that effect, Samuel blurts out “Ha Ha Ha Ha.”¬† Oh man I was really laughing during this entire encounter. Definitely set me up to love this big, sprawling family tale. If you like John Irving, if you like a big meaty novel (it’s over 600 pages), then this is for you. 5 stars.

Behold the Dreamers, the Schemers.

20 Aug

beholdThis novel is getting all the buzz. The story of an immigrant family hunting down that American Dream in NYC in 2008. The father, Jende, will have your heart from the very moment you meet him in the first chapter. We meet him in a green velour suit (I think…that’s how I remember it) with a clip-on tie nervously sweating through his interview in a big city building. He’s interviewing to become a chauffeur for one of the muckity mucks at Lehman Brothers. Before the crash. Jende and his wife, Clark (the senior exec at Lehman) and his wife Cindy – these are the four characters we follow over the course of a year. One couple scrimping and saving, one couple spending unscrupulously. A lot of people LOVE this book, a lot. I’m not one. I thought it was good – I thought I’d read it or stories like it before. I loved Jende. I just want more Jende. 3 stars.

Gathering Dust

13 Aug

Ok this week – 2 duds and 1 winner. I know some people don’t like reading bad reviews, so those will be brief:

All-the-Bright-Places-jkt

Someone told me this YA novel was this past season’s “Fault in Our Stars.” I loved that one, this All the Bright Places didn’t speak to me so much. It’s about a high school boy who has phases of “being awake” and “being gone.” I’ll not ruin the surprise of the diagnosis – but this one didn’t hit me nearly as hard as Fault in Our Stars. 3 stars

Aug. 2nd, 2016

Eowyn Ivey, author of one of my all time favorites The Snow Child, is back with To the Bright Edge of the World. This was a slow, slow, slow read with minimal plot points. A man goes off into the Alaskan wilderness, leaving behind his pregnant wife. Part adventurer’s journal, part homemaker/birdwatcher’s journal, part description of artifacts. She’s a great writer, it’s just a slow like molasses read. Reminded me of the HBO series¬†Deadwood but without any of the action – just the isolation and sense of settling new territory. 3 stars.

Aug. 9th, 2016

I Will Send Rain caught me from the very beginning. I really loved falling into this dust-bowl tumbleweed of a story. The story revolves around the Bell family, struggling to grow their wheat during the great depression. The dust storms have just started to hit and they’re making everything worse – including young Fred Bell’s asthma. Annie, the mother, finds herself questioning her long ago decision to marry Samuel and move to the godforsaken plains of Oklahoma, Samuel becomes obsessed with his dreams of rain and their teenage daughter Birdie is so busy dreaming of a future somewhere else that she lets the present-day catch her off guard. 4 stars, a fast, entertaining summer read that will have you reaching for a glass of water.

The Boy Who Lived….

5 Aug

HO

Well, wow. If you loved Harry Potter books 1-7, this is a MUST READ. The fact that it is written in play form made me hesitate a little bit, but after I got into the flow…well. It’s Harry Potter. It’s the real deal and it was AWESOME. It made me miss him all over again. Read it slowly! 5 stars.