Saturday, December 5, 2009
I know it's been a long time since I've written, mostly because books are too expensive for me to buy here. I've actually just begun a project to start a "library" for international travelers at one of my local cafes here because I'm so desperate for some new reading material. In the meantime though, I've been really enjoying the pieces on the new and improved site of The Nervous Breakdown.
I know I talk about this site a lot. I do so partly because I'm one of the writers for the site, but mostly because there are a ton of great writers over there. If you haven't checked it out before, I highly recommend you do so. They just revamped the site last month and added a ton of new features, including a FICTION section. It's a great way to discover new and emerging authors.
Also, if you hate reading long essays online, you can check out the books by The Nervous Breakdown writers here. Some of them look really incredible and I can't wait to get home so I can order a bunch of them.
You can also read my reviews of a couple of the books: All About Lulu by Jonathan Evison, Pop Salvation by Lance Reynald, Sic by Brin Friesen, Totally Killer by Greg Olear, and Banned For Life by D.R. Haney.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I've never been a fan of poetry. I've always thought it was too complicated to understand and I've never been willing to look for deeper meanings and such. I know it's a narrow view, but everyone can't like everything, you know? Even so, I've really enjoyed reading Rumi. He's inspired me. I went out and bought a sketchbook and some colored pencils, then I wrote some of my favorite passages on different pages and began drawing scenes to accompany the prose. I'd love to paint something wonderful that will remind me of these poems when I return to the United States.
After having read quite a bit of this book, I've come to the conclusion that maybe one needs to be in a certain mindset when approaching poetry. I think that is the reason I've been more open to it at this point in my life than I had been previously. If you haven't read Rumi, I highly recommend it. He was full of insight.
Here are a couple of my favorites:
You kiss a beautiful mouth,
and a key turns the lock of your fear.
Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find
all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.
How does a part of the world leave the world?
How can wetness leave water?
Don't try to put out a fire
by throwing on more fire!
Don't wash a wound with blood!
No matter how fast you run,
your shadow more than keeps up.
Sometimes, it's in front!
Only full, overhead sun
diminishes your shadow.
But that shadow has been serving you!
What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.
I can explain this, but it would break
the glass cover on your heart,
and there's no fixing that.
You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.
When from that tree, feathers and wings sprout
on you, be quieter than a dove.
Don't open your mouth for even a cooooooo.
When a frog slips into the water, the snake
cannot get it. Then the frog climbs back out
and croaks, and the snake moves toward him again.
Even if the frog learned to hiss, still the snake
would hear throughthe hiss the information
he needed, the frog voice underneath.
But if the frog could be completely silent,
then the snake would go back to sleeping,
and the frog could reach the barley.
The soul lives there in the silent breath.
And that grain of barley is such that,
when you put it in the ground,
or shall I squeeze more juice from this?
Who am I, my friend?
Monday, September 28, 2009
Part murder mystery, part conspiracy, this book, which will be released Tomorrow (September 29), tells the story of how Taylor Schmidt came to be deceased at the tender age of 23 (Not a spoiler! We learn this in the first pages of the book). The narrator, Todd Lander, does all he can to take us back to New York in 1991, the fateful year of Taylor's death.
From talking about what life was like before the Internet (There was a time before the Internet?!), to Todd's sad attempt to win Taylor's love by making her a mixed tape, this book will take you back to the early 90's the way Bret Easton Ellis takes you back to the early 80's in Less Than Zero. It's funny because I never really think of anything really defining the 90's, not in the way that pop music, fluorescent clothing, and awesome hair defined the 80's, but Olear has really captured what the decade had to offer. I especially liked the talk of the economic downturn at the time and what the "slacker" culture really meant. It really got me thinking.
As for the story, I really liked Taylor Schmidt's character, if only because I felt like I really could relate to her (at least in the beginning of the book). I thought some of the book was predictable, but the ending threw me off, which I liked. I felt like I was really wrapped up in the conspiracy by the end, the same way Todd would have felt if he were a real person. I love that about conspiracy fiction. The author (or, more often, filmmaker) spends so much time building up this world and getting you to really buy into and then BAM! nothing is what it seems and you begin to question everything you've just read. I thought Olear did a great job of that.
This was a good read set in a time period I don't really think much about, even though it was the time when most of my growing up happened, so it was a refreshing read. It's obvious Olear did a lot of research on the 90's (or he has a unhealthy attachment to those years). I thought the book was fun to read and I loved the title's play on words (even if I did have the saying "Totally killer, dude" stuck in my head for days). Definitely a good one to check out if you're looking for a quick, fun read.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Also, fellow The Nervous Breakdown writer, Greg Olear, has a book coming out on October 1. I'll be reviewing the book, Totally Killer, in a few days (just as soon as I finish reading it!). Until then, feel free to check out all of the nice things Amazon has to say about the book.
Oh, and I wanted to mention that I'm sorry if you've had trouble finding my blog as of late. Somehow Istanbul ruined my URL so I've had to switch back to a blogspot address. I'm going through the Interwebs today to try to find all of my links and change the URL. Fun stuff, let me tell you.
Monday, September 14, 2009
While Angela's Ashes focused a great deal on the overwhelming poverty of the McCourt family, 'Tis instead focuses on the differences McCourt notices between Ireland and America. In addition, there are a great many stories about the mistakes he makes in his early days and his constant yearning for Something Better. We see him struggle through many menial jobs, many with humorous stories to accompany them, and eventually he makes it to college and his Something Better - even though he isn't sure it was worth it once he's got it.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book for two reasons. First, McCourt has a great sense of humor about the way things went for him and how things have turned out. His stories will make you cry with laughter at some points because these are all stories that would have made someone say at the time: "You'll laugh about this later. You may not think so now, but you'll laugh."
Secondly, I really bonded with McCourt's character. Here I am, reading this book in my first days in Istanbul, noticing all the differences between my new home and the United States, while reading about how McCourt went through the same thing even though he was moving to a country that supposedly speaks the same language. There are a number of times he comments on the different uses of words between American English and Irish English. But it wasn't only the moving abroad point that got to me. I find myself questioning the purpose of my education and what I'm really going to do with my future, much in the same way that the young McCourt did in this memoir.
McCourt is a true story teller and he'll make you laugh. Also, he fills in some of the background information that you'll need if you haven't read Angela's Ashes, so it's not absolutely necessary to read it before picking up 'Tis (but I highly recommend it!). Definitely a book to be picked up.
Side Note: I saw at the end of the book that Frank McCourt's brother Malachy has his own book, A Monk Swimming, which was co-authored by Frank and deals with Malachy's struggles with alcoholism and his years as a playboy and actor in New York City. I think I'll be picking it up as soon as I can find an English Bookstore here.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I read Night by Elie Wiesel on our way through Germany. It made the trip to Berlin a lot more meaningful because we were there for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall and saw lots of exhibits about WWII, the Holocaust and the end of the Cold War. The book is a very short, quick read, but a story that really gets to you. Wiesel, who lived in Auschwitz for a number of years toward the end of WWII, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his literary works, which raised awareness about the horrors of the Holocaust. Night is the story of his journey from ghetto to concentration camp to liberation. Definitely worth reading.
I was a little sad about my choice though because I think far too much literature about Germany focuses on WWII. I know it's something that we all shouldn't forget, but I really wish I could read something uplifting about Germany, especially because the country has become so much more than that period in time. Germany is by far one of my most favorite countries to visit, but I think there are still a lot of negative connotations associated with it. Does anyone out there have any great recommendations for a book with the setting in Germany that's not about WWII or the Holocaust? I'd love to hear about it if you have.
The second book I finished on this trip was Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. This book has been on my reading list for years, but I could never get past the first pages. But, with a trip to Ireland on my itinerary, I zipped through it in a matter of days. McCourt's Pulitzer Prize winning memoir details his early childhood and teenage years in Limerick, Ireland, where his family lived in poverty. McCourt is able to detail the horrendous living conditions of his childhood with a sense of humor that makes you almost want to laugh at the absurdity of the situation if only it weren't so tragic. Although this book describes a less than desirable existance in Ireland, it did make me want to go to Ireland immediately. The descriptions of the place and the people were vivid and colorful. And, of course, the accented dialogues throughout the book made me want to hear the accent for myself asap. I'm really looking forward to my trip there and will hopefully find a copy of 'Tis, the sequel to Angela's Ashes, while I'm there.
Will write again when I have Internet access.
Friday, August 7, 2009
First, I'm curious about the name of the book. How did you come up with it and what does it mean?
The name of the book referred to the idea of Jasper Finch telling his story, an admittedly disturbing one, and knowing most adults don't have any clue what their kids are doing (despite their own childhoods) and most likely would blame anybody who told/exposed the truth about it. Galileo and Rosa Parks weren't thanked for their efforts in revealing the truth about an ugly situation: they were thrown in jail. With the subject matter of school shootings looming over this story, the aftermath nearly always leads to the knee jerk reaction of blame and attribution of fault. However, the profile of a school shooter is that there is no profile for a school shooter. There's poetry in that fact. My protagonist is willing to tell his story but he doesn't want to be blamed for the telling the truth.
And yet, not too many people know what "sic" even refers to, so it was probably a lousy choice. They assume I'm talking about calling for a dog to attack someone. Sic is about fault. Blame. If you talk about troubled kids you blame long before anyone attempts understanding. All the killings at schools and universities are called "senseless" at one point or another. Any rudimentary examination of the facts and invariably they immediately start making a whole lot of sense. They only way they don't is through cognitive dissonance and negligence.
You mentioned in one of your TNB posts that the first part of the book is based on a similar experience you had in elementary school. Did you stay friends with your afterward? And, how did the fight effect your later school years?
I was lured out to watch a fight and swarmed once I was out there by everyone in attendance to one degree or another. I did patch things up with the real Norman Apple. I think the fight served me the way any traumatic event serves an artist: they're unable to cope with their given reality and find the necessity to create for themselves a new one. Fiction has to make sense where real life doesn't. So you're obliged to make the details in the story something which for yourself and the reader can have more traction than real life. The impetuous for this is of course an attempt to rewrite your own history. I gave myself a fictional first kiss on the same day as the worst day of my real life. The details of the story have in many ways overtaken the real details of my life. Which is good, because that was an ugly space to occupy. People often forget that the three most popular kids authors for kids are Roald Dahl, Lewis Carrol, and . The three most banned books FOR kids are by Roald Dahl, Lewis Carrol, and JD Salinger. Innocence isn't Disney. It's complicated.
How much of the book is autobiographical? Please tell me there was no real-life Fresa.
There was indeed a Fresa; though I took from another incident that actually happened and combined the person with the event that killed him. The curbing happened while I was in 8th grade and the perpetrators were never found while 100's of kids knew exactly who they were. It was a scary time. The real life Fresa went on to become a paramedic, which seems entirely appropriate. A great deal of the book is autobiographical, however I used an extensive amount of composites. Once I had my finger on the pulse of the story much of it wrote itself.
What inspired you to write a book like this? Did you set out to write a book that focused so much on the state of mind of a bullied teenager?
High school is very attractive to me as subject matter since most people who leave it spend a tremendous amount of energy either clinging to or running from who they felt they were perceived to be during that time in their lives. I'm interested in a time where the events that mark people mark them for life. First kiss, first beating, heartbreak, etc.
That's where I started with this story: give a kid his worst day and best day on the *same* day.
Bullying was obviously a major theme also, but also examining bullying not just from the main bullies but those complicit and rooting it on. The German's were fairly recently allowed to join in on the VE Day celebration which was very interesting when they expressed the argument that they were "liberated too" from Hitler. Finally the legacy of what happened during WWII will be Hitler bullied everyone into it. The real lesson, in my view, is how regular, decent, law abiding, family loving people were persuaded of the legitimacy of genocide. In schools suicide is one the major leading causes of mortality, especially among boys. And naturally it's an under reported statistic also. Newspapers print murder stories but not suicides.
In a society that holds the "pureness" and "innocence" of children above all else, I don't have a sense that society even *likes* kids. They can be tried as an adult for a crime but can't vote. They can be legally assaulted.
Growing up the kid of a child protection lawyer a lot of this stuff has been discussed at length.
How did things end up with your Marie? Or are they still in the happenings?
Ten years later she contacted me about whether or not I became a writer and asked if I'd written anything. I said yes. She asked what it was about. I said, YOU. She read it in a night and flew from Scotland to move with me the week after that. I'm not going to spoil the ending. I
think without ever having a meaningful conversation with the real girl I didn't come up with such a misguided stand-in. But I never wrote the book to find her. It just ended up that I did.
Lastly, can you tell me a little more about And/Or Press?
And/Or Press was started by my friend Dan Starling. D.R Haney's book Banned For Life is the latest book with the And/Or stamp of approval. We're both crazy about D.R Haney.
(I'm crazy about D.R. Haney too!)
Again, to read more by Brin Friesen (or D.R. Haney), you can visit www.thenervousbreakdown.com. And, no, I don't get paid to promote the website (nor to write for it), I just love the authors and their stories there.
Best to you all,
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I really loved reading the stories of the two main characters. Much of the book takes place during the World War II era, with Wendell Blackmon serving in the Navy at the time. Raymond L. Atkins did a wonderful job of re-creating the feeling of duty many Americans felt at that time, as well as showing the sacrifice that many people made. There were also scenes from the Korean and Vietnam Wars in the book as we moved through the decades.
As with his debut novel, Atkins has created a cast of colorful characters with his latest novel. I really enjoyed his choices of words and the overall love story found in the book. I found the second epilogue to be a little bit over the top, but I think it was probably the quickest way to wrap up one of the storylines found throughout the book.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I know I can't expect the movie to be the same as the book, but why am I always so disappointed by the big screen version of books I loved? It really, really makes me not want to go see The Time Traveler's Wife or My Sister's Keeper. I just know they'll let me down. I mean, honestly, how could they possibly make The Time Traveler's Wife into a movie and keep the major story line the same? Has anyone seen these new ones? What did you think?
Friday, July 31, 2009
Friesen's book really made me think, but it was incredibly uncomfortable to read. First, because I was one of the mean girls in elementary school so it pained me to read about the girls (and boys) like me who relentlessly taunted the less popular children. Back then I thought it was hilarious, but now when I think about my behavior between ages 10 and 12 I feel terrible. At one point in the book, Finch is kicked in the shins by one of the mean girls and I literally cringed because I cannot even count the number of times I kicked little boys in the shins back in elementary school.
Later, the book became easier for me to read because I understood Finch's anxiety upon entering high school. Right before I began middle school my family moved to a new town. And then moved again just before my high school years, so I know longer had the luxury of being one of the mean girls. I didn't fit in and did my best to be invisible during those years. Unfortunately for Finch, he wasn't able to be invisible because he moved up to high school with the same people who had beat him up and hated him in elementary school.
This book is very "Lord of the Flies," only worse, because it's all happening in a place where children are expected to feel safe and are under the eye of protecting adults. It's definitely worth reading and will really make you think, but it will also make you cringe and squirm. Some of the fight scenes are particularly brutal and reading about children talking so much about sex was hard for me to read. I want to believe all children are innocent and pure, but I know that's just not the case. As I've mentioned, this book made me think back to my own childhood - many times - and no matter how much I tried to debunk it, saying children don't do this or children don't do that, I knew, from my own experience, that this really was how (some) children act. I think often children are worse than adults when it comes to fowl language and talking about sex, and that really comes through in this novel.
I don't recommend this book if you're looking for something light and cheery. This is definitely not a pick-me-up type book. It feels like it is at one point toward the end, when you're cheering for Jasper Finch and you'll think, "Yes! Let's end on a high note! I knew this was leading to a happy ending!" But then, just as with real life, Jasper (and the reader) are only able to revel in the glory for a short time before the joy of it fades and we're plunged back into reality. The last section of the book makes the other two parts worth reading, so definitely keep going even if it feels a little slow in the middle. You won't regret it.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I'm so super excited about this book because I really liked Atkins' first book, The Front Porch Prophet, which I reviewed here. The good news too is that I've got a plane ride coming up this Friday so I'll have a great opportunity to read it!
Here's the plot blurb from Amazon:
When the charred body of a promiscuous, self-proclaimed witch is discovered at a farm called Sorrow Wood, nearly everyone in the sleepy town of Sand Valley, Alabama, is drawn into the case. As the murder probe continues, a multitude of secrets are revealed, including one that leads back to the rock castle home of Wendell Blackmon, Sand Valley's police chief, and his beloved wife Reva. The town's inhabitants ruminate on the true meaning of commitment, love, death, hope, and loss as they delve deeper into questions such as Who was this woman? Where did she come from? and What did her presence mean to Wendell, Reva, and the townspeople of Sand Valley?
Review to come soon!
Monday, July 20, 2009
ALSO, D.R. Haney will be doing a reading in L.A. this weekend. If you're in town, you should check it out. Here's the details:
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Contest ends August 1, so get to it!
Friday, July 17, 2009
Instead, I wanted to introduce you all to my next book, which is Sic by Brin Friesen. I wasn't able to find the book on Amazon, but you can get information about ordering it here. The book is a debut novel published by and/or press in 2006. As with many of my recent books, I first heard about this one on The Nervous Breakdown, when Friesen put up a post giving the background of the novel, which is "about the the young boy, Jasper Finch, and his vicious junior high school years." Friesen's post gives a more detailed account of what the book is about, saying the book is based on a particularly horrible day he had in junior high where he was jumped by several boys. However, the lead up to that awful day is a story of love and longing, which only came full-circle for the author once he was an adult. Having read several of Friesen's posts on The Nervous Breakdown, I'm really looking forward to digging into his book.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
As with many of Steinbeck's books, East of Eden takes place in California's Central Valley, with the second half of the book taking place almost entirely in Salinas. The book follows three generations of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons. The Hamiltons are Steinbeck's own ancestors and he even makes a couple of appearances in the book which I thought was interesting. However, for the most part the book focuses on Adam Trask, who begins his life in Connecticut, joins the military when the U.S. was exterminating Native Americans and eventually moves West to start a family with his beautiful wife who has a hidden sinister side.
Throughout the book, Steinbeck explores the human ability to choose to be good or evil. The story of Cain and Abel is a recurring theme throughout the book and really got me to think about the nature versus nurture argument. There is a cast of colorful characters throughout the book and, as always, whether he's describing something beautiful or something awful, Steinbeck creates a vivid picture for the reader. Steinbeck is said to have thought of East of Eden as his greatest work, and I have to say that I agree. His natural talent for storytelling really comes across in this book. I know it's a long one (695 pages!) but it's well worth the time.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
I went to San Francisco to see Lance Reynald read from his book, Pop Salvation, on Thursday evening. (That's me with the short hair and big earrings). There were only a few of us in the audience, which made it cool because we were all able to ask questions from the author and had more time to talk to him than if there had been a hundred people waiting to get a signature. I was a little bit starstruck though. I got all nervous and fidgety for some reason. This seems to happen to me whenever I meet authors I've talked to online. I don't know why. Does this happen to any of you?
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Also, just a reminder that Lance Reynald will be doing a reading tomorrow evening at Books, Inc. in the Castro (San Francisco). Details:
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Location: Books Inc. in the Castro, 2275 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
Monday, July 6, 2009
A DEMOCRACY OF GHOSTS is the love story of four couples, set against the backdrop of the Herrin Massacre of 1922. This clash of miners and strikebreakers in Bloody Williamson County, in Southern Illinois, resulted in the deaths of 21 men -- 19 of them the "scabs" tortured and murdered by average men, women, and even children in what was once the most radical community in America. John Griswold has drawn from contemporary eyewitnesses and news accounts, an ethnography of the area, histories, and his own grandfather's letters to create the lives of four fictional couples whose ambitions, self-doubts, and social and sexual jealousies contribute to this great American violence that still echoes down through time.
I really loved the character of Michael Corleone (and who doesn't?). It was interesting to see his transformation take place throughout the book. Santino's character is also much more sympathetic in the book than he was in the movies, although the movie (what I've seen so far) really follows the book very closely.
One thing I really liked about this book was that it wasn't nearly as violent as I had expected. The scenes gruesome scenes are actually pretty much glossed over, mentioned only as a side note in most cases. I think it was done as a way to show that, even though the bloody parts of the mafia are what get the press, murder and revenge aren't what the mob is really all about. Puzo does a great job of explaining the legitimate businesses of the mob, along with explaining their involvement in gambling rings and other more seedy business operations. In addition, he really helps the reader to understand the inner workings of the mob and the society they have created for themselves. I found it a very interesting and informative read and I couldn't put it down.
If you've ever wondered why they say "go to the mattresses," pick up this book. It will all make sense by the time you're through.
Other reviews of this book can be found here:
Books I done read
Friday, July 3, 2009
Pop Salvation is a book about the self-discovery of Caleb Watson, who moves to a new town at age 11 and is never really accepted by the other children in his school. Throughout the book he struggles to find an identity that fits him, discovering the wonders of art, Andy Warhol and The Rocky Horror Picture Show along the way. The book is set in the early 80's at the height of Warhol's popularity and his work in The Factory. Caleb adopts Warhol's philosophy into his own life and even begins dressing like the famed artist.
But the most exciting parts of the book are the times Caleb spends with his friends, creating their own art and interacting in a world where everyone is accepted. Caleb and his few friends are all part of a group of outcasts who struggle throughout the book to come to terms with their sexual identity, having been labeled as "different" from very early on. I'm assuming the marketers who put together the blurb on the back of the book left out this part of the story in order to draw in a larger audience, as I'm sure there are people who would be put off by a book about teenagers struggling with whether they are gay or straight, but I found this to be the most extraordinary and wonderful part of the book.
The first half of the book reads almost like a love letter from Caleb to his friends, Aaron and Sonia. The tenderness he has for them radiates off the page in a way that makes you want to stop time and let it last forever. At a certain point I knew things were going to take a turn for the worst and I almost put the book down so I wouldn't have to break out of the lovely dreamworld I'd been living in, but, of course, I couldn't stop myself from seeing where author Lance Reynald would lead me. I don't want to give away too much of the book so I'll just say that I found this book to be one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful books I've ever read. You'll definitely cry, so bring some tissues with you when you read it.
For anyone in Portland or Northern California, Lance Reynald will be doing readings next week. From the events' websites:
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Location: Books Inc. in the Castro, 2275 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Date: July 25, 2009, 8:00PM
Location: 1716 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA
D. R. Haney will read from his recently-published novel about punk rock, "Banned for Life," along with other guests, including singer-songwriter Tif Sigfrids, who'll charm and disarm with dainty song.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
So, about the book. Banned for Life is told by the main character, Jason, who came of age listening to punk and getting involved in several punk bands with his best friend, Peewee. Both were inspired by the legendary Jim Cassady, lead singer of Rule of Thumb. The book is written as if Jason is telling us the story as it all happened. I really enjoyed this way of writing because it felt like I was having a conversation with the main character - as if I was sitting there listening to him tell me his story.
The book starts off with Jason as an adult, telling us about how punk eventually led him to Los Angeles and into the filmmaking industry. He's fairly unsuccessful, as many are in this industry. Then he meets a girl and his life takes a bunch of twists and turns because of her. He ends up seeking out his old hero, Jim Cassady, who had all but disappeared from the map until Jason's girlfriend helps find him.
At this point we learn why and how Cassady really effected Jason's life. We learn all about what happened to Jason during his punk years: how he started hanging out with Peewee, how they started their first band, how that first band broke up, and how he ended up in L.A. I thought this was by far the best part of the book.
And then it gets back to the Cassady part, which got a little weird in parts and bothered me a lot once I got to the end of the book because there was no real resolve with the Cassady character. From one point of view, I wanted there to be some resolve because this is fiction and you can do that with fiction. On the other hand, it was being told as if it was real life and there isn't always a nice little bow tied on everything in real life, so it makes sense that there wouldn't be in this case. It was just a little weird to spend so much time on this character to only have it just end the way it did.
In the same way, I had difficulty with the ending of the book. I don't want to give it away for those of you who will go out and read it, but it ended a little too shiny happy for me. I was actually relieved for some happiness at the end of the book after all the downer stuff that happened in the middle part, but at the same time I felt it was a little too neat. It's funny because Jason runs away from all of his problems by moving away when things go wrong and I fault him for that even though that's pretty much exactly what I'm doing by moving to Istanbul. At first I felt like the ending was unbelievable but then I realized that it's exactly what some people do (it's what I'm doing!).
Anyway, there's also this whole side story with Jason and his girlfriend, who is actually married, which, of course, causes a ton of drama throughout the book. What I found funny about this whole thing was how long it took Jason to realize that maybe the husband was actually a good guy and that the girl was just stringing them both along this whole time. It's interesting how the people IN affairs can never see their role in it.
There's a lot of good stuff in this book - some commentary on the homogenization of society, an inside look at the underground punk scene, and some great descriptions of both New York City and Los Angeles. There are also some really great descriptions in general. Haney is able to create some great visuals with his words. For example, here's one of the early descriptions of Peewee:
"At fifteen he'd soaked up more knowledge than most people twice and three times his age, and he'd ramble through it in breathless monologues, veering from subject to subject like a house-trapped sparrow trying to find an open window: it's here, it's there, it's in the kitchen, it's in the attic now."
I love that he creates a sense of how Peewee talks by using that sparrow. Somehow it really made sense to me.
OK then, if any of you have read this one, I'd love to hear your opinions on it. And, I hope I didn't give away too much of the plot.
Next up is Pop Salvation by Lance Reynald, which was just released on June 23.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Caleb Watson is not like the other children at his Washington, D.C., private school. Having skipped a grade—and being younger and smaller than the rest of the boys—he finds that his Southern accent and sensitive, reserved nature set him even further apart. Caleb simply does not belong.
But on a field trip to the art museum, Caleb discovers his hero—his icon—when he is exposed to the art of Andy Warhol. In the beauty of the things that don't fit, in the art and philosophy of Pop plus the glorious camp of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its creatures of the night, Caleb will find sanctuary, transforming himself and the eccentric friends he meets along the way into his own little version of Warhol's Factory.
Also, I have been given the opportunity to receive an advanced copy of Greg Olear's book, Totally Killer, which will be coming out on October 1. The only descriptions of the book I have to offer are this quote from Jonathan Evison, author of All About Lulu: "Olear has created a veritable almanac of the '90s. TOTALLY KILLER is, well, totally killer. You'll laugh. You'll cringe. You'll weep. You may even find yourself humming Whitney Houston." And this one-sentence description from GoodReads: "Conspiracy theory and pop culture collide in 1991 New York in this dazzling and dark debut from Greg Olear."
Olear is one funny guy though so I expect that his book will rock my socks (and hopefully yours!). I'll be sure to post more information when the book arrives. And, of course, a review will be coming. I plan to take Totally Killer with me on the road to Istanbul and share it with you all closer to the release date, along with an interview with Mr. Olear. Super exciting.
I'm really excited to be getting more debut novels to review. I really want to start reading more books by lesser-known authors. I guess I feel like the biggies get enough attention from the "real" media. I don't know, what do you think?
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I never was very interested in The Godfather even, to be honest. But that was before I found out it was originally a BOOK! What?! Yeah, it was written by Mario Puzo (awesome name, yes?!). So anyway, I'm totally stoked. I've got to finish up Banned for Life first (which rocks, by the way - but watch out if you're the profanity police), but then I'm starting directly on The Godfather. I cannot wait!
Monday, June 8, 2009
I've bought both the Fodor's Turkey travel guide as well as the Eyewitness Istanbul guide, but the Eyewitness one makes me feel like I have A.D.D. I can't concentrate on the words and find myself skipping through the book and only stopping to read the captions on pictures that catch my eye. The Fodor's seems much more informative, has plenty of tips, and gives readers the opportunity to send in their own opinions after they've been to the suggested places. I love anything that gives real people's opinions, especially when it comes to travel.
I've also been reading a Let's Go travel guide about Europe, which I have found to be quite helpful, yet brief. Granted, it's trying to cover some 24 countries in one book (1124 pages!) so brief is a good thing, but I feel like if it were the only knowledge I had of those places then I'd miss out on a lot. With the abundance of travel guides available out there, I find it difficult to know which ones to choose or trust, so I often end up picking them at random, which is why I'm curious about what you all think of the travel guide industry. What do yo do? Do you always buy the same brand? Do you even use travel guides at all? How do you go about choosing the best guide for your vacation?
Thursday, June 4, 2009
First up is "Banned for Life," a debut novel by D.R. Haney that was released in May. I first heard about this book from reading this wonderful post by Haney on The Nervous Breakdown and I immediately fell in love with his writing. I received my copy of the book yesterday and cannot wait to begin reading it. Here's a little blurb about the book from Amazon:
For almost two decades, rumors have swirled around Jim Cassady, the quasi-legendary punk-rock frontman who disappeared without a trace shortly after his girlfriend’s apparent suicide. Though largely written off as dead, some claim to have had brushes with Cassady, now said to be homeless and bumming change on the streets of his native Los Angeles. Intrigued, Jason Maddox, a would-be filmmaker and Cassady fan, decides to investigate. But the man he eventually finds and befriends is damaged in ways he could never have imagined, and Jason’s own life begins to unravel as he tries to save the hapless Jim Cassady from himself.
A mystery wrapped in a love letter to overlooked American rebels, “Banned for Life” has already amassed a cult following in L.A.’s underground music scene, where D. R. Haney has long been a fixture.
Next up are a couple of books that I really should have read by now, but haven't because I've been inundated with grad school work. I mean, really, who hasn't read "The Memory Keeper's Daughter," and "The Year of Living Biblically" yet? Oh, me. So I'm going to finally get these two out of my TBR pile.
I'm also looking forward to finally reading "Radiant Days," a novel by yet another TNB author, Michael A. Fitzgerald. From Amazon: "FitzGerald's quiet debut centers on Anthony, a Gen X-er slacking away at a meaningless but remunerative Web producer job in dot-com–boom San Francisco. Anthony's life takes an unexpected turn when he meets Hungarian bartender Gisela at a local watering hole. Beautifully irresistible (and entirely untrustworthy) in the manner of all foreign femme fatales, Gisela quickly persuades him to travel with her to Hungary, supposedly so that she can be reunited with her missing son. In Budapest, the two meet jaded British war correspondent Marsh, a Graham Greene–like character who becomes the third leg in a rapidly evolving love triangle."
Next up is "Chasing the sea" by Tom Bissell, a book that I've owned for about five years and still haven't gotten around to reading. I picked up the book after reading an article by Bissell on the same subject. It's a fascinating story about an inland sea in Central Asia that all but disappeared because the rivers feeding into and out of it were overused for irrigation and what-not by surrounding cities. He travels to the now-abandoned fishing villages that surrounded the sea and discovers now-exposed shipwrecks. He also explains the ramifications of the drying up of the sea. It really does sound fascinating so I can't explain why it's taken me so long to get to it. But I'm really going to read it now that I'll be traveling to that part of the world.
Another book that's been biding its time for awhile on my shelf is "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck. I don't know how this never got assigned to me while I was in high school, but somehow I never read it. Steinbeck is one of my most favorite authors of all time, so I'm certain I'll enjoy this one.
The rest will be waiting for me when I get back from Turkey. By then, I'm sure I'll have added many a must-read to my pile.
How about you? What are the books you're looking forward to reading this summer?
Thursday, April 2, 2009
But last night I got to meet Heather Armstrong, which was awesome. If you've never heard of Heather Armstrong, I highly recommend you check out her blog. I've been following her on Twitter for about six months and have been reading her blog for about a year. I love her voice and her point of view on so many things. Plus, she's pretty hilarious (in my book anyway). The best thing about going to see her though was that a bunch of my girlfriends actually wanted to come along. Most of the time they have no idea who the authors are that I go to see so they're not interested, but this time they were actually the ones who asked me to go to a book signing. As always, it was a treat to meet an author and Dooce was great at reading her own stuff. She's just as funny in person, but way taller than I expected. Seeing her come out was a bit of a shock to me, especially considering I'm only 5'1". I'm always shocked by tall people.
Anyway, Dooce's book, It Sucked and then I Cried, is out now. It's a story about her first pregnancy and the postpartum depression that followed. One of my friends has read quite a bit of the book already and says she's enjoying it so far. I'm going to be borrowing hers when she's finished so it may be awhile before you get a real review of it from me. Until then, feel free to check it out on Amazon.
Oh, also, my friends and I could not get over this sign posted at Books Inc., where the book signing was. Apparently they have a huge problem with cults in Mountain View (aka Yuppieville), Calif.
More book reviews to come soon, I promise!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
This books is about the robbery and shooting in the Lower Eastside of New York City. We follow two detectives as they pursue one wrong lead that leaves them without any suspects for a couple of weeks. We see how it affects the police officers, the family of the victim, and the shooter.
It's not really a mystery novel because we know from the beginning who all of the players are, and you can pretty much guess who the shooter is from the background information Price gives us in the opening chapters of the book. The story is more about the characters and how cops work an investigation than about trying to figure out who did it. I'm a cop show junky though, so I really enjoyed this book. It was actually the first real "crime" novel I've ever read. I've read a lot of John Grisham's books, but I think of those as being more about lawyers than about cops. Does that make sense? Anyway, if you like Law & Order, I think you'd like this book. It was like reading the script of one of my favorite cops shows. Price does a wonderful job of creating the scene and making you understand where his characters are coming from.
There were mixed reviews at the book club meeting, with people being pretty divided over either loving it or hating it. I was obviously one of those who liked reading it. I felt like Price really knew his subject and did a wonderful job of creating memorable dialogue between his characters. I'm looking forward to reading Clockers next. The woman who runs the book club said she like it even better than Lush Life.
Also, on a side note, I know some of you worry about profanity in books. I didn't really notice it so much, but some of the women at the book club were really put off by the swearing in the book. I thought it helped to build credibility of the story. We're supposed to believe these are criminals talking, so I just don't think it would have been believable if they were replacing swear words with stand-ins like "freakin'" and what-not. Just thought I'd give you the heads up.
Oh, two last things: First, Richard Price will be here in Sacramento on March 12 at the Crest Theatre. I will definitely be there to author stalk him if anyone wants to join me. Secondly, I wanted to link you to The New York Times article about Lush Life from last year, in case you'd like a more in-depth look at the book.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Also, for those of you who have a hard time reading nonfiction or political books, a friend of mine told me that the audio version of this book is actually read by Barack Obama and is wonderful. I think if I were to do it again, I'd probably get the audio version myself.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I start a new job in the morning and school starts next week, so I'll be busy, but it will hopefully help take my mind off things enough that I'll want a good book to help me escape.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Anyway, I still haven't finished Audacity of Hope, nor have I begun any interesting or fun books. My live-in boyfriend of three years broke up with me between my birthday (Dec. 21) and Christmas Eve and is in the process of moving out right now. I know there are much worse things that can happen, but I can't help being depressed about it. Hopefully once all of his things are out of the house I'll be feeling more like myself and be interested in reading/blogging again. I'm sorry I've been so flakey lately on here, but I hope you'll understand and still stop by once I'm up and running again.
Maybe some of you have suggestions of some good books that I could read right now? Or some suggestions on how to stay motivated to get through my TBR pile while I'm stressed/depressed? Do any of you ever just NOT feel like reading? This is the first time this has happened to me. I'd love to hear some of your thoughts and suggestions.
Friday, January 2, 2009
Drey won Funny in Farsi
Alyce wins Long Walk to Freedom (audiobook)
and Avalonne83 wins The Last Days of Krypton
Thanks everyone for participating!
Winners can send your mailing address to bexadler at yahoo dot com.