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Showing posts from March, 2012

Book 15 - Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson

This is the new novel by Eleanor Henderson and takes place in Lintonburg, Vermont. Lintonburg is obviously Burlington, VT, and is rife with references to Vermont State (UVM) and Lake Champlain (which is still Lake Champlain). At the beginning of the novel, we meet Jude and Teddy - two teenage boys that are seniors at the local high school and who are into the local drug scene. Jude's father is a marijuana dealer in New York who is dating Di, a prima ballerina (literally). Teddy is Jude's best friend and his mother also is heavily involved in the drug trade. Eliza is Di's daughter from a previous relationship and is a few years younger than the two boys. At the opening of the novel, it is New Year's Eve and it is the Mid-80s. Eliza decides to stop in Burlington on her way home to New York after a ski trip to Stowe and parties with Jude and Teddy. The three attend a bash at a local, wealthy classmate's home where there is alcohol, pot and cocaine (the cocaine bei…

Book 14 - The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

Let's get one thing clear right from the get go - Adam Johnson is a white American dude who teaches literature at Stanford University and who has had very little opportunity to live or work in North Korea, the country of which is one of the subjects of this novel. In fact, he's only been to North Korea once in his lifetime. But somehow, he manages to capture our imagination and what he believes the life that exists in North Korea must be like.
The novel follows Jun Do's (John Doe?) life and Jun Do is supposed to be a stand in for the average North Korean man - the anonymous, like our John Doe or Jane Doe would be here in the States. Jun Do is raised in an orphanage, even though he's not really an orphan. In fact, the man that runs the orphanage is Jun Do's biological father; but Jun Do has never met his mother (who is supposedly a beautiful opera singer that lives in Pyongyang) and he has never been to a museum (even the "North Korean kind"). The orphanag…

Book 13 - Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

This is a parenting memoir (a la Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) but, instead of intense, hand on parenting that borders on abuse, this is more of a laissez-faire style that the author would have her readers believe is actually pretty deceptive. In this memoir, Druckerman, who has moved to France, gotten married to a British sports journalist and has had children, documents her attempts to become a perfectly French mother. Her theory, which may actually contain some sentiment of truth, is that French parents are not actually obsessed with their children the way most British and American parents are. They don't spend weekends acting as the mom taxi and they definitely don't negotiate tantrums - instead, they have firm boundaries that allow for their children to be creative so long as they don't go outside of those boundaries. The French seem to base their parenting theories on a few, dare I say, common sense ideas: 1. That children and babies are really rational and minia…

Book 12 - The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

This novel is the 2011 Booker Prize winner, written by Julian Barnes. It's 176 pages, but just because it's so short, doesn't mean you should undersell it. In fact, you shouldn't at all because it wholeheartedly deserves the recognition that it has received. When we meet the narrator, Tony, he is in prep school in the 50's or 60's in England. His group includes him and two other boys, but makes space to include a 4th - a brainy young man named Adrian, whom the boys quickly begin to admire and emulate. Tony is also discovering romance in the form of Veronica, and actually develops a really warm relationship with her mother (that is odd in retrospect, but I guess hindsight is 20/20). When Tony and Veronica inevitably (and quickly) break up, Veronica begins to date Adrian. Years later, after the friends have moved away and apart, and have grown up and had families and careers of their own, Veronica and Adrian become a part of Tony's life again, but not in t…

Book 11 - Go the F*** to Sleep by Adam Mansbach and illustrated by Ricardo Cortes

Author Adam Mansbach wrote this children's book for adults and it is so, so, so food and so, so, so funny. It is based upon his experiences with his daughter, Vivian, who, apparently, would take up to two hours to fall asleep at night when she was younger. It is written in the style of a children's book but also adds, at the end of each verse, the parent's profane thoughts about the inability of their child to go to sleep at night. I really, really liked this because it's so funny and so true - the child's excuses and the responses that I think that we all seem to have as parents. What I also really liked is that it opens up dialogue about those frustrations that we have as parents but are sometimes difficult to talk about because of the stigma sometimes attached to them and the fear about being perceived as bad parents.

Would I read this to my kids? No. It does con taint profanity and that's all I need - both my four year old and my 18 month old running a…

Book 10 - Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck by Eric G. Wilson

Can elephants really tell us anything about the macabre or morbid? What about our toddlers: will they ever stop wanting to blow things up? Why are we so drawn to things like the Holocaust Museum, Auschwitz, Ground Zero and Gettysburg? Why is there such fascination with autopsy photos of famous people? These are the questions that Wake Forrest Prof. Eric Wilson attempts to answer in this book, his newest. To answer these questions, Wilson not only draws upon his own experience but he uses philosophers like Kant, Aristotle and Freud as well as Shakespeare, among others (although there weren't any females that he relied upon interestingly enough but more on that later on). He also draws upon the cases of serial killers and the people that collect items that relate to them (because yes, apparently there are people that collect memorabilia that relate to Ted Bundy, Charles Manson and Aileen Wournos among others). We learn about his interviews with some of these collectors and about h…

Book 9 - The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott

So, I picked up this book by Stephen Elliott expecting it to be the run of the mill memoir about a guy from the streets who has a drug addiction that he kicks and then makes good by becoming what he always dreamed of becoming - in his case a writer - and then writing this particular memoir in order to make sure that other people don't follow those early footsteps (or if they had, to prove to them that they too can achieve their goals). But this memoir isn't like this. It's actually way more complicated (and, by extension, much better). It's not just about Elliott's journey to self-discovery, although he manages to discover himself in the process. He's actually searching for a story that will help him to overcome his writer's block. His "official" story is about a murder that has occurred and the two people that are suspects in it - a soon to be ex-husband and his ex's new boyfriend. This search leads him through the wasteland of his childhood…

Book 8 - A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

A Storm of Swords is the third in the Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R.R. Martin. It first came out in 2000 in the United Kingdom and then in the United States. It picks up the story lines slightly before the ending of the previous book, Clash of Kings, and features the remaining kings all fighting in the effort to secure their own thrones and secure domination of the entirety of the continent of Westeros. I don't want to provide too much more information because doing so would ruin the surprises (and let's face it, the surprises are the best parts of this series because they truly are gems that you don't see coming at all) but I can say that there are amazing plot twists and fantastic character development that draws you and almost forces you to become attached to the characters without you even realizing what's happening.

What I also really liked about George RR Martin in general, and with this book in particular, is that he is a master at both dialogue and p…