Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dear Life by Alice Munro

I have so many reviews and so little time! I'm generally not a tremendous fan of short stories; however Alice Munro is one of those few authors who can succinctly and powerfully capture a whole life in the span of a handful of pages, masterfully. And that is something that I enjoy and respect. Many of these stories are set in rural Canada, probably where Ms. Munro herself grew up. Many look back, in 20/20 hindsight, on events that occurred in childhood and that is the event on which the entire story is focussed. I did really enjoy the story, "Haven" in which a passive-agressive woman rebels (albeit passively-aggressively), in spite of having spent the great majority of time deferring to the antisocial opinions of her husband. I liked it because it was the portrait of a woman who are caught in the midst of changing social expectations and norms. The passive aggressive woman was caught between the compelling and strong needs to be independent and the need to belong, between freedom and domesticity (it was the end of the 60's and beginning of the seventies, when feminism was striving to change how we think about gender roles). I also really liked "Gravel," a very haunting tale about a young girl, whose older sister throws herself and the family dog into a lake and the narrator fails to summon help in a timely fashion.

The last four pieces are perhaps the most interesting of all the pieces. They are not fictional short stories but are purely memoir and allow us a small window into the workings of Ms. Munro and her life. I liked them because I got a really good sense of what it was like for Ms. Munro coming of age in a small, rural Canadian town. They don't necessarily resolve neatly and follow tidy boundaries, but that is what makes them so good, since life doesn't necessarily follow the tidy, neat boundaries.

I enjoyed reading this book immensely


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Night Film by Marisha Pessl

The true believers only come out at night, at least to watch the psychologically horrific films that Stanislas Cordova creates in Marisha Pessl's latest novel. The movies are screened in abandoned buildings at night and only the initiated know about them. Specifically, the devoted initiates know to look for a red bird on the doors or walls to tell them that this is the building in which the latest Cordova movie is to be screened. What makes the director even more curious is that he has become a recluse - mostly because people suspect that he has something to hide or has done something more unsavory than his movies. Scott McGrath is the protagonist and definitely has a vendetta - a few years before we meet him as he's jogging around Central Park at 2 in the morning, he got sued for libel, lost and was disgraced for writing a story about Cordova. When Cordova's daughter, Ashley, who is talented beyond belief, suffers from an untimely death, he sees the opportunity that he's been hoping for. He is absolutely her death was caused by some of the awful things she suffered at her father's hands and sets out to investigate.

The book is not only a trove of thriller but it also includes fake webpages, marked up pictures and other multimedia forms that make this book more than the normal book. You can download the app from the ITunes App Store and use it on certain pages in the book to unlock the extras. It makes for a multilayered and fascinating reading experience. What made this book even more fascinating to me was that she kept Cordova tantalizingly just beyond the page that I was reading - it was as if I looked hard enough into the shadows at the edge of the light, I could see him there and be able to talk to him myself, but when I tried, it was as elusive for me as it was for McGrath. It didn't end up being everything that I wanted it to be; however I was hooked and I read all 600 pages of it in about three days - the chapters are often really short, which makes for quick reading and lots of easy breaks. Definitely worth a shot


Monday, September 30, 2013

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

This book is set on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota in 1988, give or take a few years. The protagonist is Joe Coutts, a thirteen year old member of the Ojibwe tribe and whose mother is brutally beaten and raped in the tribe's Round House. The Round House is a place of prominence in the tribe's culture as that is where a number of religious ceremonies are held, including the Sweat Lodges. His father, Bazil, is a lawyer and the town's tribal judge, making the violation that occurred even that much more horrific. Because Joe's mother is extremely unclear as to what happened and where due to her injuries and her seeming unwillingness (who can really blame her) to remember what happened to her, it's hard to figure out who committed the offense and in what jurisdiction each event happened. This is significant because it could be a federal offense, a state offense or a tribal offense, with the ramifications of each being extremely different (for instance, on Indian land, whites can't be prosecuted). Joe watches, seemingly helplessly, as his mother sinks further and further into depression - so badly that she can't get out of bed, let alone care for herself. As Joe watches this, he and his friends decide to take matters into their own hands and to seek out the perpetrator and effect their own punishment.

THis book was absolutely masterful. It is both a coming of age story and a detective novel combined in one. In the first chapters, we meet Joe as a young and innocent boy and the picture that Erdrich paints, while using simple language, paints a very poignant picture of a boy that's just hanging out with his friends. That is taken away from him brutally when his mother is attacked and you feel the loss immensely. Her stories and characters are seemingly universal - I mean, you get that boys sneak cigarettes and beer - but you also know that the impact and experience of Joe is unique to him because of who he is - a Native American boy growing up on a reservation near the turn of the century. I loved how she also used the novel to educate the reader - possibly a majority white audience - about the struggles that Native Americans face, particularly poverty and assault related issues. This book is highly recommended.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

We learn pretty much at the beginning of this utterly engrossing book that Will Schwalbe's mother had Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Yes, thats the terminal kind that has metastasized to many other organs of a person's body. While this may have been devastating to most people (and was to Will, his siblings and the rest of his family), his indomitable mother continues to live a *really* active life. She juggles her treatments with her other obligations and her pleasures, most notably her voracious appetite for reading. During her treatments, Will (also a tremendous reader in a family of readers) will read the same books that his mother does and discuss them with her in great depth.

I'm normally very hesitant about books about books - they can go so horribly wrong so quickly; however this one was really good in part because it's not a Cliffs note version of books, and because it's also a memoir of his mother's struggle with cancer and because he's such a good writer. I think that one of the best compliments that I can give for this book is that I wish that I had known Will's mother and that this was the most wonderful tribute anyone could have made to their mother because it conveyed how wonderful she was while also imparting her gift of her love of books to the rest of us. While this book isn't upbeat (it's about cancer and death), it's not maudlin at all and parts of it are truly uplifting. I got ideas for books to read and topics to meditate on at a time in my life when I really and truly needed them to distract me or educate me or both. It re-affirmed my love of books, and reading and the act of reading and digesting what I've read. It re-affirmed the importance of family at a time that I was struggling to figure family out. This is a must read.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

This book is a memoir written by Piper Kerman, a WASP-y, upper middle class, Smith college graduate that has to spend 15 months in a minimum security prison in Connecticut after she pleads guilty to federal drug charges. It is the basis - loosely - of the Netflix series of the same name. If you haven't seen the series, please take a time out immediately, go over to Netflix and add it to your streaming queue because it is to die for - it's one of my guilty pleasures.

I really liked the memoir (which is different in many ways from the series - which can take many fictional liberties whereas the memoir can't). Kerman tries to provide a glimpse of what life is like on the inside of the prison, albeit in a way that is similar to what went on in Eat, Pray, Love. I really liked seeing the day to day life of a post-adjudged convict in the criminal justice system and the struggles that these women faced and that were inherent in the return to society. I really wished that I had gotten more backstory on the women that Piper came across. Piper's goal in writing this memoir was two fold I think: to show how badly the criminal justice system is set up to reintegrate these women into society and to humanize the women that she met. However, the backstories were incomplete, non-existent or completely fictionalized because prison etiquette seemed to forbid the questioning of other inmates about their background (according to Piper).

Piper is obviously really smart - she went to Smith after all - and she writes pretty well. She was engaging and could be witty at times. It was easy to imagine the setting and the people that she dealt with and the interactions that she had with them because she was able to engage all of the senses in her descriptions. The book came across as a sugar coated summer camp, when it obviously wasn't - something like prison simply can't by nature be so happy or copacetic.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

How good this novel is can be demonstrated by its opening line: ""My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) and almost 40 years ago [the early 1970's] I was sent on a secret mission for the British security service. I didn't return safely. Within eighteen months of joining I was sacked, having disgraced myself and ruined my lover, though he certainly had a hand in his own undoing." Yes, it's a "spy novel" in some sense; however only very loosely so. Too much said about the plot will ruin the effect for the reader though. I can say that the book is full of irony and simply wonderful.

Serena is one of the best characters that I've ever met in literature. She is so complex. As we meet her, we learn that she has gone to college at Cambridge (not too shabby) where she studied math after being forced to do so by her ambitious mother (instead of English and literature, which were Serena's passions and still are when we meet her - she literally can ingest one or two books a day on average and is a voracious and passionate reader). So, in many ways, this is a book about books and writing - it's also about inexperience/innocence, jealousy and relationships, betrayal and deceit. More so, it is about whether literature is still a valuable tool in modern society and whether books read as deeply as McEwan believes that they should be read will disappear.

McEwan, as usual, is a wonderful writer. This book brought me comfort in the way that a satisfying stew or roast could - it was something that I could sink my teeth into and savor and left me feeling satisfied and thoughtful in a pleasant way. His narrator is cheeky, warm, animated and intimate - we are allowed to see parts of her life that not everyone can see or would normally see. It's like we're eavesdropping on her conversations or reading her diary. As such, this novel was delightful and sublime.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fairyland by Alysia Abbott

This book is a memoir written by a woman in the hopes that she can recover the memory of her father and his innocence, because his innocence was the first thing that came to her mind when she thought of him. Alysia's mom and dad were a couple, got married, had the author and then Alyia's mother died in a car crash. Once she did, Alysia and her dad moved to San Francisco, where Alysia began to realize that her father was gay.

Steve Abbott, Alysia's father, began to move through the peripheries of the San Francisco poetry scene in the sixties and seventies. He came out during the age of Harvey Milk and he was able to finally find his voice during that time period. During that time period, Alysia was right by his side - he was her only parent. The part of her memoir that struck me the most was how she chronicled the seeming loss of innocence that occurred between the age of the Beats, the onset of AIDS and the death that it wrought before people became educated about it. What also struck me was the constant tension between the need to write and find one's voice and the need to support the family - even though Steve was constantly publishing and writing and reading, the small family constantly struggled to make ends meet.

It is also about Alysia and her coming of age during a time when people like Anita Bryant vilified gay men and lesbians, when Harvey Milk was gunned down at point blank range because he was gay and when people she knew and loved were dying because of a disease that people thought they deserved because they were gay. As an adolescent, a teenager and a young college student living in NY, France and then back at home, she struggled mightily with the fact that her dad was different. She called him weird at one point and made the comment that she didn't want to be on the weird side anymore, leading meto the conclusion that this was a coming of age memoir as well. She has been tremendously successful - she lives in Cambridge, MA with her own family and seems to have come of age well.

This is a novel that is a personal account of an historical period. She draws on the letters that her father sent to her as well as his journals and her own journals, so in that sense it's not a bad personal and historical accounting of what happened and the impact that it had on her life. It's well written and moves fast. It's heartbreaking while also fun in parts. Definitely a must read.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

When we first encounter Thea Atwell, our protagonist, she has been sent away from her home in Florida to the mountains of Appalachia in what we know is disgrace. She is 15 years old and one half of a set of fraternal twins, the other half of which remained at home with their parents. Thea hopes that she is merely there for summer camp, but when summer is over, she learns that she will be there for the rest of the school year at the very least. The events occur during the beginning of the Great Depression and one can tell that it is having an impact on the girls at the camp, many of whom must leave or get hastily married in order to ensure the family's financial stability and/or position. Economics, however, are a secondary theme to adolescent, and specifically female adolescent, sexual awakening. It doesn't take the reader long to figure out that sex was at the heart of Thea's exile from the fold; however, it is richly given to us in layers that are peeled away slowly.

The way that the story is told is very effective: DiSclafani alternates between the present, when Thea is at the boarding school and the past, when she is in Florida and hasn't yet experienced the acts that led to her exile. Both are very sensory and rich environments even though they are very different from one another. Thea is a tremendous character: she both feels guilt at the transgressions she's made in the sense that she feels bad that harm has come to people because of what she has done. At the same time, she loves the sensory feedback that she gets and she is very angry at her parents for sending her away. In my mind, this is a very realistic position for a character to be in because in real life, I'm sure many a person has felt that they were entitled to feel sexually fulfilled and have still felt guilty that their actions may have harmed or actually harmed someone (pedophiles aside). I really enjoyed this novel...even though it didn't give me any insight into why adolescents like horses...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Without giving too much away, hopefully, I think that I can say this about the plot of this novel: it's about the lives of a woman named ursula Todd who continuously reliving her life. For instance, we meet her on the day of her birth, where she is still born and then on the next page, we meet her again and she has managed to live a little longer. And in the section after that, a bit longer. And so the whole book goes, with Ms. Todd living a bit longer each time. During each of these lives we learn a lot more about Ms. Todd and we also learn that she becomes aware that this is happening to her.

The book was a bit difficult to get into as far as the rhythm and pacing of it - it is also disconcerting and disorienting in the beginning because the reader has no idea of what is going on. I think that this may have been intentional on the part of the author because as the novel goes on, one of the most impressive parts is the main character's increasing self awareness including the fact that she seems to have 9 lives. Stick with it because it's so worth it in the end! I also read this book as a combination of "the road not taken" and the ability to make different choices. It's the ability to use hindsight to fix the exact situations that you knew that you had made a mistake in. The writing itself was amazing. It allowed me to get fully absorbed in it without feeling mired down in mud or struggling to wade through. There were a ton of poetic metaphors that were fresh (as opposed to the old tired ones that a lot of people seem to use). It is intelligent without making itself feel better than the reader. I loved this book and highly recommend it.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Life After Life by Jill McCorkle

Surprisingly to me, this was Jill McCorkle's sixth novel; however it was her first in about 15 years.The center of activity of this novel is an assisted living facility in the Southeast, which is also located near a cemetery. THe novel introduces the reader to many different residents of the facility, its workers and their friends. Their memories and experiences are revealed to the reader through memories, journal entries and first person narrative. Slowly and surely, the reader begins to grasp the tension between illusion and reality and the difficulty that each person has determining what belongs to each realm.

I loved these characters - even the ones that were reprehensible. I appreciated the authenticity of the characters. It wasn't a stretch to believe that these were people that I would have known in real life. It moved somewhat slowly and yet I didn't mind that it moved slowly. It allowed me to get to know the characters and to immerse myself in the community. It's a small community - one where everyone knows everyone else. For instance, one of the residents was a teacher in the community and taught many of the children of the other residents - that's how small it is. I have lived in such a community so it didn't feel as claustrophobic as some people complained that the book felt. The novel was very poignant and I really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Detroit by Charlie LeDuff

I heard about this book on one of my favorite reading podcasts: Books on the Nightstand and it sounded so good. I found it quite easily at my local library.

Charlie LeDuff is a trained journalist and he actually lives in Detroit. He states that his family is from the area, however I'm not positive that this is accurate. He does currently live in Detroit and does online and TV journalism. This made his perspective unique, intriguing and heartbreaking all in one. His narrative looks at many different parts of Detroit's existence: his personal and family life, politics, economics and law enforcement. Even the parts of the narrative that aren't personal become so as he talks about them through a personal lens. He chronicles the appalling neglect of the fire department - their shoes literally have holes in them. One of the firefighters that LeDuff shadows as he researches the book dies in a house fire, in part due to equipment failure. LeDuff's narrative delves into the inner sanctums of the police department and the mayor's office, where the degree of corruption he unearths is so unbelievable, that it could have been fiction. It also explains the derelict circumstances that exist in a city that was once relatively prosperous - or prosperous enough that people wanted to move there from Southern cities in order to better their own circumstances. LeDuff also chronicles the rise and fall of the very politicians that he exposes for their corrupt practices.

While the topics encompassed by the book were amazing, I felt like I was talking to someone who was in the midst of a manic episode. It was in a constant state of being wound up and revved up, impatient in a way. And maybe it was because he was upset and impatient and frustrated at the way his hometown had been run into the ground. There were times when he tried too hard. For instance, he stated “The strain was showing on Monica Conyers like a cheap cocktail dress.” That is old and worn down. He was most effective when he was slowing down and saying it more simply. Aside from this, it was wonderful and I loved it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

World Without End by Ken Follett

This is the second novel in the Pillars of the Earth series; however you should know that the books aren't dependent upon you reading one and then the other. They simply take place in the same place. This novel takes place in the 1300's, approximately 200-300 years after the events in The Pillars of the Earth, in the same town. The cathedral is still standing; however, there are many things that are changing in the lives of the people. Serfs are beginning to free themselves by looking to other towns that pay more for the jobs they do and the products they sell. This novel follows the lives of four very different children: Ralph, Gwenda, Caris and Merthing. We meet them when they are quite young and they have wandered into the forrest, only to watch a man be killed. The characters use this moment seminally and it completely influences who they become.

The book not only encompasses the black plague and the slowly evolving role of the church, but also issues surrounding economic and social equality. Follett is a master storyteller, albeit one thta isn't the best writer in the sense of his word choice. I loved being able to get lost in the stories of the time and Follett made it easy to immerse oneself in the stories of the characters and the lives of the people. I look forward to reading Follett's series on WWII shortly!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin

This is the 5th of seven novels in the Fire and Ice series by George Martin. There was six years in between this latest novel and the 4th book in the series so the question has to be whether it was worth the wait. It's hard for me to say because I came to the series late enough that there wasn't much of a delay between when I finished the 4th book and when the most recent book was released. Without giving much away, I think that there were both good thins and bad things. I really loved the battle scenes from the forth novel and missed those in this most recent installment. However I was also very pleased at how Mr. Martin developed quests in the most recent installment. I'm hopeful that the next book will combine the two in the ways that the first three books of the series did, since that was very effective.

That being said, Martin is a better writer than when he started the series all those years ago (and how in the heck did I not know about them, the prolific reader that I am?!). His prose is so much more than a guilty pleasure. I am not ashamed to say that I made excuses to read it - I hid in the bathroom, I read in bed, I read while watching the kids in the bathtub. Martin's prose was so rich and deft that once I started reading, it was almost as if yo were imposing on me when yo interrupted me. The way that he develops his plotlines is also priceless.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed went through a very tough time in her life in the mid 90's. She lost her mother to a very fast moving cancer, cheated on her husband and then divorced him. She moved from waitress job to waitress job, hoping that something would appear or she would get a big break. At times she was both promiscuous and an illegal drug imbiber, exposing herself to diseases that in her prior life, she may not have. In the midst of these struggles, Ms. Strayed decides that in order to exorcise her demons, she must hike the Pacific Coast Trail from the Southernmost tip of California to Canada for a grand total of 1100 miles.

This is a memoir that encapsulates a trek through beautiful countryside as well as a meditation on loss. Strayed describes her emotional and mental landscape as thoroughly as she describes the landscape that she is hiking through - she doesn't spare any discussions of the losses that she has endured. What disappointed me a little bit was that Ms. Strayed didn't hike the entire trail. A good bit of it was snowed in so she ended up hiking only bits in California and then all of Washington. What I loved was that Cheryl was able to dig herself out of the horribly dark place that she was in by hiking this intense bit of trail. And I was so impressed that she was able to put her experiences, her bad points and her struggles out there for all of us voyeurs to partake in and she did it well. The result of her walk was hamburger feet and physical pain; however it was also self - improvement and the ability to know that she can get beyond anything.

There were definite moments that I was frustrated by this book - I couldn't believe that Ms. Strayed hiked for so long and couldn't figure out how to care for her feet (which, when you're hiking like this, are the most important parts of your body!). I felt so badly for Cheryl's ex-husband, who was hurt so badly by Cheryl and who couldn't figure out how to help Cheryl grieve. I was frustrated that Cheryl left him for a man that exposed her to a dangerous and illegal drug culture. On the other hand, I loved her voice and seeing her struggle with those same issues and succeed. All in all this was a tremendous book and memoir - one that all should read.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

I had never heard about Lionel Shriver before, ironically, seeing the movie adaptation of this novel (starring Tilda Swinton who I think, may have won an award for her portrayal of Kevin's mother). I was shocked to learn that she was born in 1957 and is 22 years older than me mostly because the pictures that I see of her show her when she's younger and because she handled the material in this novel so adroitly.

This novel was published initially in 2003 and tells the story of a fictional school massacre from the perspective of the killer's mother - Eva Khachadourian. The story is told in the first person through letters that Eva has written to her husband, Franklin, and which seem to come every week or so. In the letters, Eva deals with everything from her relationship with Franklin both before and after Kevin is born and she struggles with adjusting to life after this has happened, which is difficult because she lives in the town that this happened in.

What made this novel so interesting to me was the tension between innate characteristics and personal experiences in determining character and behavior - the old nature vs. nurture. Eva, in having Kevin, was particularly ambivalent about maternity and motherhood in general. She had a tremendous career and owned her own company - which was hugely successful. She didn't bond with Kevin at all and in fact, pretty much hated every minute that she had to spend with him. She worries that this influenced him negatively and caused him to become a sociopath that ruined the community and his family. THis was the theme that spoke most strongly to me although the rationalization theme was also pretty powerful. We in the US, sheltered as we have been, are now being exposed to things like 9-11 and the Boston Marathon bombings in recent years that we really weren't exposed to before and are constantly asking "Why?" as if the reason could help us to deal with atrocities that happen. This was a strong theme that Eva has to deal with and I'm not sure that she gets a good answer because Kevin essentially tells her that he did it to feed our lust for drama and excitement.

All in all, a really good read and I can't wait to read Ms. Shriver's newest novel.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Columbine by David Cullen

What an awful choice of books in the current time and circumstances; however, in my own defense, I chose to read this book earlier this month - and finished it way before the Boston Marathon bombings but I never got around to reviewing it until now. And quite frankly, I always have had this morbid curiosity as to what drives people that were seemingly normal to do such horrendously awful things. That was the motivation that I had in picking up this book (and why I ahve been obsessed with the Boston Marathon case since it happened). This book is a comprehensive examination of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado and follows two story lines very closely.

What I loved about this book is how much of it took me by surprise. We all believed and thought that they were targeting specific people; however that isn't what happened. The two boys were shooting at random that day. They didn't have targets at all! Well, I take it back - the school and the community were the targets as this was a miserably failed attempt at domestic terrorism. There were bombs planted by the boys that didn't go off. THis book also is wonderful. It is a work of media criticism and the book is well written. I think that the weakest part of the book is channeling Eric HArris - the author simply can't do it effectively or well and it falls short - and this is why I think most people read a book like this. All in all though a good book.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

You know that a book is going to be a wonderfully epic novel when the first line is: "The small boys came early to the hanging." The novel lived up to the tremendous first line because it was honestly 900 pages and then some of wonderful prose.

The Pillars of the Earth was written by Ken Follett and came out in 1989. It takes place in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England in the 12th century and the centerpiece of the novel - the thread that binds everyone in the tapestry together - is the building of the town's new cathedral. It takes place during an important period - the time between the sinking of a ship and the murder of the Archbishop, Thomas Becket (both of which play somewhat important roles in the novel). When we meet the town of Kingsbridge, Henry has already died and there is no clear heir. Maud (his daughter) and Stephen are fighting for the throne. Tom Builder, a master builder, is searching for work for his family of four (soon to be five) because the rich man whose house he was building suddenly found himself without need for it, after being rejected by the woman that was to be his wife. We also meet Phillip, a devout monk who has such a sad history (that we learn about fairly early on in the novel) and who is so kindly and smart, but naive and trusting at the same time. Lady Aliena is the third main character in the novel, and is the woman who was supposed to get married but called the marriage off.

Please don't believe the people that say that this is just a book about cathedrals and church architecture because it is so much more than that (and even though the descriptions of the architecture and the process of building were fascinating). It is also about the intricacies of history - the battles, the changes of power, the role of the church, the life of the people that lived during that period, the rebellions - and the intricacies of relationships between people. We bear witness to the tragedies and joys of the main characters and the hardships that they must so often bear. Be warned - Follett doesn't shy away from the brutality of the times either and there are a few scenes that are just awful and made me cry. I loved this book because of the subject matter and even because of the length. A must read and I can't wait to read the sequel!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sticks and Stones by Emily Bazelon

I am a tremendous fan of Emily Bazelon - I have been ever since I started listening to her on the Slate podcasts and reading her blog articles there as well. I also loved her interview with Steven Colbert, which is what convinced me to get her new book. My husband bought it for me as my birthday present, which made it even more special!

I think that the idea for this book started in 2009 when Ms. Bazelon began writing articles on Slate about bullying and its impact on students. Social media seemed to amplify the impact of bullying on various groups and that piqued her concern and interest even more so. In this book, Bazelon attempts to define what bullying is, using three case studies, and attempts to provide some guidance to administrators and families in the hopes of reigning in bullying in the social media age.

I think that a lot of people assumed that this book would be really a self help book in disguise and it really isn't - you would know that Bazelon is NOT the self help type of journalist. She's got a really good background for this - having been trained as a lawyer. The case studies are interesting - one is a pretty famous case about the teen girl from Massachusetts that killed herself after having some nasty run ins with other teens in her school. Those teens were charged criminally as adults - a move that is still highly unusual. I loved how she used the case studies to define bullying and to provide examples of good things that were done and bad things that were done. The book itself was very well organized and made sense. It was also very readable-it was informative without talking down to people and informative without coming across as in your face, know-it-all. Her style is also engaging and I loved reading it.

This is an important book that we should all read.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban

This is a young adult novel that focuses on Tim MacBeth, a 17 year old albino that has transferred to a prestigious private school in upstate New York in the middle of his senior year. The motto of the school is "enter here to be and find a friend;" however, Tim has no interest in this. He just wants to finish school and move on, hopefully without drawing too much more unwanted attention to himself. Right away, Tim's plans go out the window when he finds himself falling for the homecoming queen, the "it" girl Vanessa, who is conveniently dating the most popular guy at the school. Vanessa is surprisingly sweet to Tim and really likes him as well. They begin a relationship that not too many people know about; and both are living under the Senior English project - The Tragedy Paper.

Even though this is classified as a young adult novel, you should by no means underestimate it because the novel is beautifully written and wonderfully crafted. It exemplifies the saying "Less is more," in its accessible and simple style. All of my senses were utilized, enabling me to picture the school and experience what the characters did, without unnecessary exposition. The author did a really good job in building up tension and then delivering. I felt like Laban told an authentic story that was easy to relate to.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

AFter reading this 2012 winner of the Orange Award, I learned that Miller studied drama at Yale and that her specialty was adapting the classic Greek and Roman myths into stage productions for modern audiences and that's when I realized that this wonderful book came "naturally" to her as a first time novelist. We are immediately transported to the Ancient Greece of the heroes that we know so well and we meet a less well known (er, ok, unknown completely) young man named Patroclus. Patroclus is a prince, who as a young boy is one of the contenders of Helen's hand and who subsequent to his rejection, killed another boy. Patroclus is, as a result, disowned and sent to Phthia as an exile to live in the palace of the king. While there, he becomes friends with Achilles, the half human/half God prince and becomes his companion. Where Patroclus is geeky and awkward, Achilles is strong, handsome and has none of the growing pains that a normal teenage boy should have. They eventually become more then companions, if you get my meaning - which is something that Achilles' goddess of a mother does not like at all.

It becomes something more than a simple re-telling. It becomes about love and betrayal and honor and pride and what happens when a person has too much of each and the lessons are told to us against the backdrop of the Trojan War. It is a war beset with massive amounts of interference on the part of the Gods, who seem fickle and are never happy with anything that happens. Miller does a magnificently seductive job of telling the story and Patroclus is very complex. While he may be pathetic when faced with the Gods and their inane ability to pull the strings of their puppet humans, Patroclus is nonetheless likeable. He's practical and down to earth - the guy that you'd be friends with because he's funny and smart and observant but approachable and humble at the same time. I really enjoyed this novel and eagerly await her next.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Broken Harbor by Tana French

This novel is one of Tana French's Dublin murder squad books. I think that she has two (that I'm sure of) and possibly another additional one out there. I liked both of the ones that I read so when I saw that she had a new one, I started salivating over it and here we are. In this novel, Mick "Scorcher" Kenned - a supporting actor from her novel, Faithful Place, published in 2010, - takes center stage in this novel. His goal is to attempt to figure out what happened in the early morning hours and which resulted in the death of two children and their father and left their mother barely alive and clinging to life. The setting is a development that was obviously intended to be upscale - the homes were designed to be beautiful and are overlooking the sea of a former resort town (that ironically, Mick used to visit with his family). The development hasn't been completed : there are shells of homes and half built homes and empty homes all over the place because the recession has hit hard and people aren't buying homes anymore. It also cost the father of the family his job and the family was struggling to hold it together.

The investigation appears to encompass all of the contacts that the family has - at various points, a close friend and the mother's sister are suspected of the brutal attack - and yet many questions focus on the insular family as well. Had the father gone insane and become dangerously obsessive with providing for his family? Was it random or were they targeted by a person who was surveilling them?

What I loved about this book was that it wasn't just another murder mystery. I felt like French was delving into complex psychological issues. She took on the issue of good people that play by the rules being ruined by things that may be beyond their control. She deals with the tenuous position that family members deal with in having family members that suffer from a significant mental illness and who are not treated, whether by choice or circumstances. Mick's sister deals with what I think might by schizophrenia - at various points she talks about hallucinations - and it's painful to watch him have to go through deciding what to do when their other sibling can't help with her and yet, he has to go work. It also takes on the dire straits that Ireland's economy is in and what happens to the people that live there.

French has created a suspenseful plot while also developing believable and flawed characters. She deals with everything from the ugliness that can be police work to the everyday struggles that people have to deal with in difficult times. And she does it in a way that is lyrical, simple and yet so moving and beautiful. A must read.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Marmee and Louisa by Eve LaPlante

I think that I fell in love with Eve LaPlante when I read American Jezebel perhaps last year or the year before. I thought that LaPlante was my type of historian - a feminist that delved into the women in America's history and then told their stories in a way that was accessible. But then I found out that not only did I love her books, but she is related to Louisa May Alcott - she is a cousin and her great great great grandfather, was Louisa May Alcott's uncle!! So, when I saw that she wrote a book about Louisa May Alcott, I was so excited and, after reading this book, I am convinced that I was Louisa May Alcott in a previous life (or, at the very least, I would totally have been friends with her if I lived when she did because she was awesome).

If you read the first of Alcott's works: Flower Fables, it is inscribed to her mother, Abigail May Alcott. That inscription states: “Whatever beauty or poetry is to be found in my little book is owing to your interest and encouragement of all my efforts from the first to the last.” It's so apparent that Abigail Alcott plays a prominent role in everything that her child did; however we know next to nothing about her and that should be disturbing. It's even more disturbing because it came to light that Louisa and her father burned her papers after her death in order to perhaps protect the families' privacy and also to protect what they believed was Abigail's straying from the script so to speak. It also has to do with the fact that nless yo were a woman like Loisa Alcott (i.e. exceptional in some way), many woman were (and are to some extent still) invisible. Their voices didn't mean mch at the time so the steps weren't taken to preserve the papers that they left.

However, there were a number of primary sources that Eve LaPlante, who is a descendant of Abigail's brother, uses magnificently to tell the story of a woman that was smart and creative but constrained by society. I found Abigail to be a fascinating woman. She was drawn more to the intellectual to the domestic, which often lead to much emotional suffering and misery on her part. She was a strident abolitionist and a feminist, who believed that all people (including slaves and her daughters) should be treated fairly and equally - which meant that they should be able to vote and work for wages outside of the home. Interestingly, she was of almost pure Boston Brahmn blood - with judges (one of whom was a judge responsible for the Salem witch trial and who publicly renounced his actions in Salme and one of whom was JOHN HANCOCK - how awesome?!). She met Bronson Alcott in 1827 and married, much to her dismay later on in life as Bronson was, apparently, the 19th century version of a deadbeat dad. Bronson was either indifferent to the suffering that his family underwent as the result of his inability to support them, or absent, or both. AS a result, in part of necessity, she sought and was often employed - usually as a landlady, seamstress or social worker.

Louisa was exposed to this mentor during her life. And it was apparent, and compellingly argued, that it was Abigail and not Bronson, who encouraged Louisa to become the wildly successful author that she was. Many of Louisa's notes in her journal talk about how she idolized her mother. The inscriptions in her book were mainly to her mother. Her mother often was the person that initially reviewed and edited her book. Abigail was the practical and emotional support to Louisa, while Bronson was the absent leech, for lack of a better description. The book was tremendously researched. It drew upon the words written by all of the main players - including Bronson and other people that Louisa interacted with. The use of primary sources has been unparalleled in the books that I've read, at least since I've been out of college. And the book was wonderfully written - it was a coherent and lyrical narrative of Alcott and her life.

I look forward to Eve LaPlante's next books because they are wonderful.

Friday, February 22, 2013

In One Person by John Irving

So, I started reading books by John Irving way back when I was in college and a friend of mine recommended that I read The World According to Garp (a book that I should probably re-read along with The Cider House Rules and a Prayer for Owen Meany). I should probably send a very heartfelt thank you because Irving has become one of my most treasured authors of all time, and his place in my heart has grown since I learned that he's from New Hampshire.

In One Person is told from the viewpoint of Billy, who always seems to have a crush on the "wrong person," including gender bending types that one wouldn't necessarily expect a young man growing up in the 50's to confidently express a desire for (but whom Billy does). It focuses on his years as a faculty brat at a prep school in rural Vermont and then the years shortly after - I think that it's accurate to say that most Irving's attention is paid to Billy's adolescence and college years. There are big questions about what constitutes sexuality, sexual and gender identity, family and personhood. Billy is born into a family where his father is mysteriously absent - in fact, the ghost of his existence is what we end up being most familiar with; where his mother is seemingly disgusted by him (maybe because he reminds her of his absent biological father?); a kind stepfather that is actually a father; an aunt who hates anyone that doesn't fit into her (conservative) view of life; a cross dressing grandfather and a drunk uncle. The tale spans his whole life - with heavy focus on the preop school years, when he seems to have a crush on everyone from his friend Elaine, to a male wrestler, to the librarian and even his stepfather.

What I think that this book set out to do is to teach people about bisexuality and gay culture. I think it also attempted to portray the struggles that a young male teenager has in coming to terms with his sexuality on his own and the struggles that he has with acceptance in the world at large. Don't get me wrong - those struggles really struck me but what also struck me were the struggles that Billy experienced during the AIDS epidemic in the 80's. I think that, in part, it was because I grew up in the 80's and I don't remember hearing a whole lot about that - my parents didn't really talk to me a whole lot about it - but I learned a lot about it in high school and of course in college and have done a lot of reading since. That part of the book really struck me the most and remains with me a lot. I think that the parts that Irving dedicates to the AIDS epidemic is devastatingly beautiful and perhaps some of the best prose I've seen from anyone and particularly from him.

I loved this book, as I have loved most of his novels.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie

I don't remember where I heard or saw this book, but it was an interesting read. It is a collection of short stories written by a man that is Native American and grew up on a reservation near Spokane, Washington (he is in fact, a member of the Spokane tribe) and the stories heavily portray the Native American experience and are autobiographical in nature. I guess not truly autobiographical as they are classified as short stories/fiction; however they took root in experiences that Alexie had while he was growing up and as an adult.

The title of the collection is appropriate because it seems like the main characters are always committing some sort of sin or other blasphemy. I loved how all of the protagonists, like the author, are Native American and literally make everyone uncomfortable because they all push the envelope in some way. And while they push the envelope, they are also addressing issues that Native Americans currently face: alcoholism, joblessness, transitioning from the rez to mass white culture. It deals with failed dreams and drugs. It deals with death and loss. It would be really easy for Alexie to just be depressing and morbid while telling these stories; however he's not and that's what makes these stories so amazingly wonderful. He tells the story with rueful humor and the characters always seem to find the humor in the situations, allowing us to blow off a little steam while trying to digest the awfulness of some of the struggles that they are facing. I also enjoyed the language that he used - he used a ton of memorable images. For instance, he wrote "Eucharist, that glorious metaphoric cannibalism of our Messiah." And that wasn't even one of the best ones.

All in all, this completely irreverent collection of stories makes the book a funny and quick and wonderful book to read. Grab it immediately.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Southbound by Lucy and Susan Letcher (aka Isis and jackrabbit, the "Barefoot Sisters")

I have been scouring my local library for tales about hiking and the mountains, with a focus on first person narrative but also history. I found this book by doing a Google search for hiking memoirs and it landed on a number of top 10 lists so I picked it up. This book is a memoir told in the first person voice, an alternates between the perspectives of the two sisters: Lucy and Susan.Thru hiking, or hiking the entire AT from North to South or South to North is not something that I want to do right now although I'm not dismissing it completely - perhaps when the kids are older - anyways, this was a good intro to it.

Lucy and Susan have jsut graduated from college and are trying to decide what to do with their lives. As they attempt to find themselves, they decide to hike SOBO on the AT. Barefoot. While it's still fun, at least. The narrative often alternates between either girls' perspectives, never really repeating itself but alternating visions of a single, chronological narrative. I really enjoyed the stories that the girls told. I was able to conjure up the community that they experienced and the people that they met with my senses - I could see them, hear them and yes, sometimes even smell them. I could imagine how wonderful a shower and a clean bed and a pizza would have been after hiking for a week and attempting to break 20 miles a day but my imagination was driven into overload by the ways that the girls told the story. And I have to say - two women hiking the AT, which is very male dominated, was pretty ballsy in my book and earned them points with me. I loved how I got a vivid picture of trail life - including the travails of hiking in winter (hello frostbite and snow up to yoru hip!) and injuries and having to carry enough gear and food to get you to the next drop). Loved it

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Defending Jacob by William Landay

I heard about this book on one of my favorite book podcasts: Books on the Nightstand. I was surprised to find a copy available in the library for me to take out. Pleasantly so. This novel looked and sounded intriguing because it is about Andy Barber - a high powered assistant district attorney in a county that borders the city of Boston. He is so high powered, that he is the first assistant and is often the go guy for the homicides and other serious offenses that crop up in his jurisdiction. Anything involving lawyers and criminal law is intriguing. Not only is he well respected at his job, but he is loved and respected in his family and in his neighborhood as well. He seems to have the most perfect life that anyone can imagine having. His perfect suburban life is shattered by an odd homicide in his neigh brood - a 14 year old boy is killed as he was walking to school and Andy's son Jacob, has been arrested and charged in the death.

The book starts out with what is obviously the transcript of grand jury testimony where Andy is being interrogated by a former colleague and menthe. I didn't think that it would be promising - the predictable old legal thriller coming up. But I was pleasantly surprised because this didn't turn out to be the run of the mill legal thriller that I had just about convinced myself that I had picked up. The book ended up containing an interesting mix of legal/criminal justice issues that many contemporary lawyers and those involved with the criminal justice system deal with and familial issues - how is this going to impact the marriage, are our children really who we think we are, etc? It also interestingly, takes up issues of nature v. Nurture - Andy apparently comes from a long line of men that have brutally murdered people, with Andy being the first to break the chain. Was this something that was ingrained in Jacob's being, like eye color?

One line in particular struck me: “Our blind trust in the system is the product of ignorance and magical thinking,” Andy says about the law, “and there was no way in hell I was going to trust my son’s fate to it.” I found that this statement rang hauntingly true. In this country we must have faith in the system because we have to believe that it works.If it doesn't, what does that mean? But sometimes the system doesn't work because it's made up of human components: a prosecutor that loses their vision of justice, a judge that isn't neutral, whatever. And what would a parent do if their child is in this situation, particularly when that parent has spent their life prosecuting the people that have committed these acts?

All in all, a good book and a good read.

  • Books Read in 100 Book Fiction Challenge:4
  • Books Read in 100 Books in 2013:6

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This is How You Lose her by Junot Diaz

This book has been all over the place from NPR to the book podcasts that I listened to. In this book, we are introduced to Yunior again - Yunior and his family have emigrated from the Dominican Republic and have settled in the northeast - New Jersey is the setting for many of those tales. We learn that he grew up in a poor immigrant community there. Yunior's life with his family is the focus of his most recent collection of stories - that is what this book is - a collection of short stories, the common thread of which is Yunioor's life and his interactions with his family. Yunior's voice also holds the stories together because they are all told from his perspective and it is a really unique and interesting perspective.

I particularly like the first story entitled "The Sun, the Moon and the Stars," a story in which Yunior brings his girlfriend, with whom he has had a pretty serious romantic relationship, to the Dominican Republic for a vacation. They visit both the "tourist" part of the island and the "real" part of the island, where Yunior's family used to live. I loved this line in particular. "A goddamn fortress, walled away from everybody else,” with “beaches so white they ache to be trampled." Diaz was describing the resort that he ends up having to take his girlfriend to because she seemingly can't handle being on the other parts of the island. This is highlighted when Yunior states that he feels sequestered there and surrounded by "by “Garcías and Colóns” who “come to relax after a long month of oppressing the masses,” and the “melanin deficient Eurofucks” who look like “budget Foucaults … too many of them in the company of a dark-assed Dominican girl.”

I loved that story, and most of Diaz's other stories, because not only did I get a satisfying narrative and development of character development, but that issues of class were being addressed as well not by an in your face "look at awful these people are" but by a description of what Yunior was seeing and smelling and experiencing. I loved being able to use my senses to realize those experiences. I liked how Diaz also connected the past and present through Yunior's experiences - I could see him becoming the person that he was by using his past and the present in conjunction to transform himself into a person that he wanted to become.

The title of the collection also provides some insight. Violence in many forms is used by the characters to get power. Yunior never really uses physical violence against his girlfriends; however he seems to use emotional violence an awful lot. For instance, he cheats on his girlfriends quite often. He lies and isn't ashamed of it or necessarily even sorry that he's cheated. And by doing this, he ends up losing every single girlfriend that he manages to land over the course of these stories. He is very demeaning towards women as well using words like "slut" and "whore" to describe them. You can see that he is perpetuating the views of women that his father and older brother have and it's so clear that this is where he learned that mindset.Even with that, I truly enjoyed reading these stories because the characters are absolutely fascinating.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Up by Patricia Ellis Herr

I found this book while doing a search for books that related to hiking in thee White Mountains and the 4000 foot club. The search may have even been more narrow in the sense that I was looking for the best hiking books out there that weren't guides of some sort and were mostly if not all memoir. It took root in Herr's blog about hiking with her daughters. She also has nother blog about hiking here. After having done my research on her, I was quite frankly fascinated. I admire her drive - she's a homeschooling feminist thta dropped out of the workforce and before getting her Ph.D from Harvard in order to do what she did - and I wanted to do what she did at least as far as the hiking with the kids thing. So I eagerly went hunting for this book at my local library and I found it.

Tricia and her 6 year old daughter start hiking on a whim - she's one of those moms that believe in indulging her daughter to some degree and encouraging her to try new things in the hopes that her daughter will develop a passion for them and continue to do them. In this case, they both quickly become addicted to and passionate about hiking and they set out to hike all 48 mountains above 4000 feet in the State of New Hampshire. When they initially start, they experience a number of mishaps, including hiking without the proper gear when there is still snow in the higher elevations when there was still snow on the ground - and not simply an inch or two. Tricia fell in p to her hip!!

What I quickly feared was that the book would be over the top and preachy - I wrongly assumed that she would be like some of the homeschooling parents out there that were in the holier than thou school of thought; however I wasn't right at all. I found myself respecting Tricia because she explained herself but didn't preach about how her way of life should be the way of life of all around her. I found that this book was very inspiring and made me very excited to hike on my own and to conquer my own mountains with my children and on my own. The book also moved pleasantly quickly. This is a definite must read.

    Books read in the 100 Fiction Challenge: 2
    Books read in 2013: 4

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Twelve by Justin Cronin


This novel is the second in a trilogy by Justin Cronin. I'm kind of in a bind in the sense that I don't want to give too much away - so be forewarned that there may be spoilers here. I found this book as I do a lot of my books - by browsing through the new releases section of the library. I didn't get it to review as an advance reader version or anything like that.

The book starts, almost pretentiously (OK, actually pretentiously) in the format of Bible verses that serve to describe what happened in the previous novel. We then fast forward to brief updates as to where the characters from the last novel are currently and once that is done, Cronin attempts to give us some history of where things are now.

I enjoyed the story, even though it's obviously just filling time until the third installment of the trilogy comes into being. I'm not going to knock it too much, because some of the best movies or stories are the "filler" or bridge (I'm thinking Empire Strikes Back); however, I did have some beefs with this novel. I was constantly flipping around, trying to remember who each character was. Aside from the major characters - Like Amy and Lila Kyle - I often forgot and the names aren't anything special. Furthermore, Cronin seemed to be unsure as to how much time he should devote to each character - which may have been because he had so many main characters that he could and should have been devoting his time to. The book jumps all over the place and through varying times so much that coherence is sacrificed in some instances in order to tell the history, which is unfortunate. There are sections of the story that are so ripe for examination of humanity and what makes people human; however that analysis doesn't occur and where it does occur, it barely grazes the surface.

TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault discussion

What I also didn't like was Cronin's seeming misogynist treatment of the strong female characters in his novel. Alicia is perhaps the strongest humanoid female. Her blood has been merged with the blood of the other strong female character: Amy, who is a vampire herself. She's a badass; however Cronin feels it necessary to have her captured and not only tortured but continuously sexually assaulted by a sick f*** in order to hopefully gain information from her. He also has Amy acting like a martyr/Joan of Arc (who was badass) but who is also tortured to some degree. Why? Really? Was this necessary? I found it also completely hypocritical on Cronin's part because he developed these stories and the characters of Amy and Alicia specifically because in essence, his daughter asked him to write a novel about strong girls. WTF? Need I say more?

OK, so I did knock it a lot...I did like the writing style and the story is fascinating as only post-apocalyptic novels can be. Perhaps renting it from Amazon if you have a prime membership or taking it out from your library. Th slink for the Passage is below.

Books read in 100 book fiction challenge: 2

Books read in 2013:3

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book 2: Making Babies by Anne Enright

This book doesn't count towards the 100 fiction books challenge that I'm participating in, but definitely counts towards my 100 books in 2013 challenge so I'm going to label it as book 2.

Anne Enright is, apparently, one of Ireland's eminent authors; however I had never heard of her before. I was browsing around in the library and saw this book, picked it up and read it. In it, Ms. Enright has just had two babies in pretty quick secession: a boy and a girl. She had them approximately 18 years after marrying their father, during which she had a mature and lucrative career as a writer. She won the Booker prize in 2007 for crying out loud. This book is made of several anecdotes about her experiences in the early years of having children and is definitely memoir.

I learned something while reading this book: It's often really hard to write about babies because, guess what, they're boring. And when you write a book on them, as Ms. Enright did - while they are infants and sleeping - it gets worse. It becomes disjointed, uncomfortable and downright hallucinogenic in places and, quite frankly, I struggled to get through it. Those feelings were not feelings that I particularly wanted to remember from the first few months after my children were born. I didn't want to remember how I would go to the bathroom and lock the door so that I could get like 5 minutes to myself or how I would just stand in the shower with the hot water running over me because I was too tired to move my hands and arms to wash my hair. The book itself was difficult to read because it didn't flow in a way that made me comfortable. I didn't feel that it came together in a way that was cohesive - too much rambling for me.

Pass on this one

Books read in 2013: 2

Books read for 100 book fiction challenge: 1

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book 1 - Boston Noir

So I picked this book up because I love the city of Boston and have spent a lot of time there in my college years and law school years. I went to college near Boston and then in law school, visited a lot because my husband still lived there. I also spent one summer there interning in between my first and second year in law school. Boston has a place in my heart even though it's not the same as the city that I grew up in. And of course, Dennis Lehane is a wonderful, local author that has written a ton of good fiction based in Boston.

This is a collection of short stories I think edited by Dennis Lehane which was published in 2009. The "Noir" series is published by an independent press in the Bronx that started the series with Bronx Noir (also fantastic) and has since moved onto cities like Detroit, New Orleans and even Istanbul. Each story focuses on a particular neighborhood in Boston - ranging from the North End and Beacon Hill to Southie. Two of the stories have remained with me since I put the collection down. The first was titled Animal Rescue, which was written by Lehane himself. He has such a wonderful way of writing anyway, that all of your senses are piqued and utilized in his narrative, as a general matter of course. In this story, the main character adopts a dog, with somewhat catastrophic consequences. The minutiae of the story don't necessarily make this story - the story as a whole is the model upon which new writers should base their stories. It masters everything from character development, to plot and twists with such mastery and deftness that I was enthralled and uplifted by it.

I also really enjoyed Femme Sole by Dana Cameron. Ms. Cameron's story focuses on the female propietor of a bar in pre-revolutionary Boston. I loved seeing her point of view and her stresses and what the pressures were upon here to find either a buyer or a husband.

All in all, I really enjoyed this collection of short stories and I hope to find more of the Noir series to read.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My 2012 Challenge and My 2013 Challenge

So my 2012 challenge fell flat on its face. I apparently read approximately one-third of the books that I wanted to read. I will read 100 books gosh darnit, I will. And that is what the challenge for this year is, again:

The rules can be found here. Wish me luck!

The Power by Naomi Alderman

If you liked The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, you will want to read this dystopian novel, which has won a number of awards in th...