Thoughts by Angela Flournoy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015, 352 pages
Challenge: Tournament of Books
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Hardback / Library
Why I read this now: trying to cram as many of the shortlist in before Monday.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: A family drama, a black family of 13 children, bookended by the eldest son’s obsession with a ghost (a haint) from his childhood and the youngest’s attempt to survive without a job, a place to live and with a gambling addiction. Lots of family dynamics all set within the framework of a decaying family house within a story of the city of Detroit.
WHAT’s GOOD: I thought it honest about fear of living/surviving, fear of aging, racism realities, addiction.
What’s NOT so good: I have only a minor quibble about geography. An editor might have caught this inconsistency question and suggested a reroute so someone like me from Kansas doesn’t get panties in a twist about how a guy could take the train from Pine Bluff Arkansas to Detroit and somehow see the scenery of Kansas. Or how a truck driver on a route of Detroit to Nashville ends up wooing a pharmacist tech in Kansas City. Hmmmph.
FINAL THOUGHTS: An easy reading, interesting family drama that will keep Angela Flournoy on my list of authors-to-follow.
RATING: I gave it four slices but it might only be a 3+. Overall, I liked it, but it is already fading as I now get immersed in the audio of Fates and Furies and print of The Sellout.
I joined the Classics Club because I wanted to participate in the spins.
What’s a spin? When they announce SPIN!!! like it’s “Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck, GOOOSE!!!” and you have to list 20 books from your list of 50 that you want to read and they spin the wheel to pick a number and you have to read whichever book is listed at that spot. The spin number is announced March 7 and you have to read the chosen title by the first week of May. Fun, huh?
I’m making a new list this time around: (ALPHABETICAL)
1 And Then There Were None / Agatha (I might have read this when I was a teen…)
2 Brighton Rock / Graham Greene (this also counts for WiaN)
3 Charlotte Sometimes / Penelope Farmer
4 Cry the Beloved Country / A Paton (I had attempted this once and abandoned; let’s try again. This will from now on be a MUST-HAVE-ON-SPIN-LIST title.)
5 The Double Helix / JD Watson
6 The Dud Avocado / Elaine Dundy (Our friend Jill read this recently; would be awesome if she sent it to me. HINT HINT)
7 The House of Seven Gables / Hawthorne (I recently read The Map of True Places which referenced this title a LOT.)
8 I Capture the Castle / Dodie Smith
9 Jude the Obscure / Tom Hardy (I own a copy)
10 The King Must Die / Mary Renault (I saw this once at a dusty ol’ junk shop downtown and didn’t buy it. Still kicking myself for that missed opportunity.)
11 Love in a Cold Climate / Nancy Mitford
12 Love in a Fallen City / Eileen Chang
13 Naked Lunch / Burroughs
14 Orlando / Woolf (this has been on my tbr for FAR TOO LONG)
15 The Ox-Bow Incident / WVT Clark
16 Rabbit, Run / Updike (I have never read this author, have you?)
17 Stoner / John Williams
18 The Way We Live Now / Anthony Trollope
19 West with the Night / Beryl Markham
20 Wide Sargasso Sea / Jean Rhys
I’m cheering for 1, 2, 8, 9 and 14 while hoping that 12, 15, and 19 are NOT chosen. Basically rooting for the single digits 1-10 and not the last half of the list. Just cuz, no real reason. Whichever number the ball falls on is fine…
Challenge: Tournament of Books
Genre: Short Story
Type/Source: Audio first, then switched to hardback / library
Why I read this now: Really? do you have to ask?
WHAT’s it ABOUT: This is a linked story collection – my favorite kind, in the vein of Olive Kitteridge (which I adored), that Goon Squad book (which I did NOT adore) and The Imperfectionists (which YOU should read because it is really good.)
So, no. I guess I won’t tell you anything. Cover links to goodreads.
WHAT’s GOOD: Everything. The writing, the construction, the descriptions, the wry observations about life and stuff.
What’s NOT so good: The audio was NOT that great. I realized when I switched to print that I missed a LOT, a TON! And I blame it on the narrators – there were three. I probably bear some of that burden, but I don’t claim it. It was the accents. Perhaps it was my prejudice on how I heard the voice – one of the guys just sounded ‘not right’ or ‘not too bright’, if that makes any sense. I apologize. Oh well. Avoid the audiobook, in my opinion.
FINAL THOUGHTS: If you like a book that makes you laugh while you cry, this might do it for ya.
RATING: Five slices of pie! Seriously, this may go down as a top 5 favorite over many years.
p.6 “The coin could have bought a meat pie, a sketch pad, a confectionery, a bar of soap; pressed into someone else’s palm it could have become the bright spot in a dull day, but coins cannot choose their fate.”
71% – ???? – I couldn’t find it. SO hard to bookmark an audio. Especially if driving a car responsibly. IF ANYONE HAS THIS AS eBOOK, please let me know! Thanks.
Thoughts by DM Pulley, Thomas & Mercer – Amazon Imprint 2015, 477 pages
Type/Source: eBook / Kindle Purchase
Why I read this now: For my neighborhood book club
WHAT’s it ABOUT: A recent college grad’s first job as a structural engineer is to map the 15 floors of an abandoned bank building in downtown Cleveland. When the bank failed twenty years prior, the doors were locked and everything is still in the building – files, desks with lipstick-stained coffee cups, full ashtrays, and bank deposit boxes. Why did the bank fail? Why did they leave everything? Why is our protag (her name is Iris) finding keys and odd ‘clues’ that inspire her to ask questions like “Why did the bank fail?” and “Why hasn’t anybody claimed their stuff in the deposit boxes?”
The story switches between Iris in 1998 and two bank clerks (Maxine and Beatrice) from 1978 who also have questions about curious goings-on at the bank in the weeks up to the sudden shut down.
It is a fast-paced tale of intrigue and dirty deeds, the rich and the have-nots, powerful men and the women they underestimate.
WHAT’s GOOD: The 1978 story was much more interesting and follows Beatrice who is rather naive and her new best friend ‘Max’ who may be too smart for her own good. Beatrice has secrets of her own — some she herself doesn’t even know but she gets to find out.
What’s NOT so good: Quite a bit, sadly. Iris is complicated but not interesting nor likable – she is supposedly valedictorian of her college engineering class but she has zero ambition and sloppy habits. She is not impressive; claims she wants to make a good impression at work but is constantly late and hungover. She didn’t fit her own story. The minor characters get lost or disregarded along the way. What really was Nick after? Ramone didn’t quite make sense. Max was cool and Beatrice was a kid easy to cheer for – she eventually finds her spunk. But the bank stuff? — the bad guys were hard to differentiate from each other. I found it rather incredulous that so many years would go by and nothing was disturbed. (Spoiler? just highlight the following line: How and when did they manage to seal up the dead guy when every other office felt like it was abandoned with no notice? Too odd.
The resolution left a lot of unanswered question or maybe only gave unsatisfactory answers. But whatever, by that time I was ready for it to be over. I did race to the ending as one often does with a mystery ; the pacing was OK.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Iris was a mess; she didn’t make sense and as one goodreads reviewer says, “she was a dolt.” I agree but I also wanted to cheer for the woman engineer!! Go women in STEM. The mystery was OK without picking it apart with a technical fine comb and the pre-bank-closing story line was not too bad. The Bank Building was probably my favorite character. The idea of all those unclaimed bank deposit boxes and what could be hiding in them IS intriguing so I give credit to the author for running with that idea. I applaud her realized dream to write and see her story published. Cleveland, too, is central to the story so anyone who loves a book set in this Ohio town might get a kick out of it.
I actually think it could make a good film; mini-series, perhaps? Episode of Castle or Bones? (These are the only two shows I watch and infrequently at that.)
RATING: Two slices for “It’s OK.”
Pie Mention: ~ 19% – “Random customers, mostly older men, were scattered around the room, sipping coffee and eating pie.”
Challenge: Tournament of Books 2015
Genre: Literary Fiction
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible
Why I read this now: For the Rooster
MOTIVATION for READING: This is a book that many love to hate, others are swooning over, and some thought it ‘fell flat’. Gotta find out where I am in all that!
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Goodreads blurb: When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.
WHAT’s GOOD: It is sweeping, it ifeels epic, it is fascinating, it is friendship as love and people at their best. People at their worst. It’s heavy. At times, I was impressed. Reading through the discussion at the Tournament of Books Goodreads Group Page helped me keep a tentative and open view to what YH was attempting, maybe. I was damned curious and went along for the ride. Since it was audio, I offer no quotes… Okay, maybe one, from goodreads:
“Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified.”
What’s NOT so good: It’s long. The trauma Jude experienced and can’t run away from ever is unending and brutal. “Do the characters grow?” someone asked me on Twitter and I don’t think they did. It just got beyond believable. If it was an issue or a quality or a characteristic, it got in this book somehow somewhere: drugs, poverty, wealth, sexual preference, cutting, art, acting, Swedish film, fancy food, racial profiling, distant parents, flying to Paris, everything and the kitchen sink. It seemed an experiment of cultural affectation.
Since it was audio, I do have to mention: I listen while driving and when pulling into my driveway, ready to find that ‘good spot’ to turn off the book… It kept going and going and I would think – “OK ALREADY! Put a period on that sentence! take a breath. Sheeeesh.” So perhaps, a few run-on runnin’ on-and-on sentences.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it. I found the descriptions of life and friendship and culture riveting at times. I do think this had elements of powerful prose. I did find myself connecting but it didn’t let up. There was a glossy overlay that made it all too pretty even as it wallowed in despair. Whoa! Fancy talk for me, huh?
OK, I’m reading through the paragraphs I just wrote (and you just read to get here) and I’m laughing, shaking my head at myself. I’m glad to have read it. Would I recommend it? Nope – you’ll have to decide that all for yourself.
Based on this Twitter convo, I originally planned a ‘few words’ post:
SO on that note…
RATING: No pie was mentioned that I noted, anyway…
Thoughts by Karolina Waclawiak, Regan Arts. 2015, 236 pages
Challenge: Tournament of Books 2016
Genre: Literary Fiction
Type/Source: Hardback, Library
Why I read this now: Next up in house book for the Tourney (Bracket here)
MOTIVATION for READING: Doh, the Rooster!
What I said on Goodreads:
“Dark. This was a book about sad angry cynical violent depraved souls. And lots of public urination. “
WHAT’s it ABOUT: The Invaders is a sweeping look at a wealthy ocean-side country club-marina community and also a close look into the private lives of a college-age son and his stepmother who reside there. The community is trying to keep the luxury all to themselves by eliminating any chance of riff-raff having access and our characters are trying to keep hold of their place within. It ain’t pretty.
WHAT’s GOOD: The author skillfully has the reader tentatively rooting for and cheering on Teddy “the son” and Cheryl the “now-aging-once-trophy-wife-stepmom” — or at least attempting to sympathize with them and their challenges of drug addiction and distracted self-pity. There are other sad/creepy attempts at connection and a hurricane hits. The more distance I have from this the more I like what the author did here and how she told the story. I have to quote Ti in her review at Book Chatter:
I’ve never read a book that I liked and hated as much as this one. I’d flip a page and hate it and then I’d read a paragraph and love it again. I kept going back and forth like that throughout the entire book!
Though I don’t think I swung back and forth so far as love-hate, I was in a rush to read it and hated to put it down. It is quick reading. It is gaining my appreciation the more I think about; pacing, tone, its ability to be unsettling…
What’s NOT so good: Tom Perrotta is quoted on the cover of the edition I have, “A gut punch of a novel – a scathing look at privilege.” And that is what I had a little bit of trouble with. No one in this community is shown any ability to be kind, or gentle or moral or considerate. As myself, a member of a marina community who could easily be assumed to be person who fits this privileged description — (and I am privileged, I know!) — I found it sad that it would be too easy to assume all people who live in nice places and belong to a club are horrible people. They aren’t. Don’t fall for that stereotype. Just sayin’. This book makes every single person who is a member of this club look depraved.
Perrotta also says “Waclawiak is a remarkable writer.” He may be right.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I wanted to like Cheryl. I think I give more sympathy to Teddy, poor kid. Wow, what a ride! A book club could have a field day with this.
RATING: Four slices of pie. No pie was mentioned. But lobster was!
I feel very comfortable here. I figured out a long time ago that I do this for me and if an audience finds me, that is extra whipped cream on the pie slice that is this blog. I just don’t worry about it.
I want to thank all the bloggers who have participated in BBAW this week, for the Twitter chats, the Superlatives, the visits and comments. I want to thank the organizers who are so extremely enthusiastic and dedicated and passionate for this community. I’m proud to know you.
Thanks to whoever listed my blog in the post “Literary Blogs“. Cool. I am humbled.
Perhaps BBAW, I thought, isn’t just one week in a year? Perhaps BBAW lives in the hearts of book-friends far and near…
Now go eat some pie.Tomorrow, Feb 20, is Cherry Pie Day. I don’t know who decided this and I don’t care. I will be making a Chocolate Stout Cherry Pie and you will see photos on Instagram…
First off, I have an issue to ask about. What is it with Gravatar? If you use this to sign-in but when I click on it hoping to find your blog and it doesn’t have a link back, what’s the point? Please do fix. Thank you.
I love WordPress.com. I apologize if I don’t often comment on your Blogger blog because sometimes I just CAN’T – the ‘system’ kicks me out, requiring me to log all the way out of Google so that it will recognize my WP account. And I totally understand if you have difficulty commenting here due to the WP vs Blogger feud. Just sayin’. So let’s meet on Twitter, okay? or goodreads. I’m there every day.
Yep, I am often sharing photos of my dogs and books and dogs with books at Instagram. And PIE. Lots and lots of pie with hashtag #CaresPieShow. I am BkClubCare there, as well. Just following #bookstagram will suck much time but there are some awesome reviews and it is just like falling down that rabbit hole of early blogging days!
I am involved with the TLC Readers Facebook group started by my first book-blogging friend Lisa… It’s a closed group but I can get you in if you want…
Guess what else I do to stay connected to my book friends!
I do not have a Feedly or use anything due to my protest that Google Reader went away. I rely on memory & mood (call it WHIM or a Universe-Prodding) or my blog roll and/or Twitter plus your comments here to dictate who/when/what blogs I visit. I have no plan; works for me.
I usually cheer at Read-A-Thon, I’m a sucker for a readalong, I’m loving my recent involvement with the Classics Club, I try to visit every blogger who has visited me, and I try to comment a reply to every comment received here but forget to look to see if you have replied to my comment at YOUR blog… (And yes, I love that scene in Brooklyn when the boss asks our girl if she tries to wear panties every day.)
Then. I decided to go visit the official BBAW site for all the links to today’s topic and I saw this:
Conversely, what is a book(s) you’ve attempted to push on everyone and their mother? Was it a success or a failure? What book would you push on me RIGHT THIS MINUTE?
Hmmm, I can work with this.
I ask you, you Reader you, (which is why you are still here and reading THIS thus far, is because you must be a book lover or a lover of pie and I respect both): “Be honest, how do react when a book is suggested for book club that you have NEVER HEARD OF?”
Because we all KNOW all the books. ALL THE BOOKS.
What is your reaction when you get a book suggestion which is of a title you are unfamiliar with and/or – if not a debut – an author you do not know?! cuz you know, as a blogger, you are tuned in and know shit, amirite!?
Well, I will admit that I get suspicious. I usually have at least heard of or recognize ALL THE FREAKIN’ BOOKS, right?! Even if I don’t know all the details. [True story – I found out today that The Royal We – which I have dismissed as not-for-me due to pure snobbery – is written by the Go Fug Yourself duo which is a website I followed religiously way back in the day. Now I think I must read this book. Shannon’s endorsement just might shame my book snobbery, too, but whatever.]
FINALLY, I have a point.
Go read this:
Death in the Garden was a neighborhood book club choice. I had never heard of it. I did not know the author. Goodness, the cover is NOT inspiring. So pale and … pastel.
Whaddya know. I LOVED IT!! And so did my friend who read it because I loved it and she loved it! so let’s give this book some book-blogger love!! THIS is the book I wish for you to experience and see if you agree with me for its insightful feminism, intriguing mystery, lovely time and setting, and overall impressiveness. I dare you.
I probably should just read more mysteries…
But truly, this is the only book I can think of latelythat has entered or paraded my consciousness that I didn’t already know of or have heard of or whatever from somewhere else than blogs. One of the book clubs I joined here in NC has theentireyear slated with 80% books I’ve already read and the other 20% on my tbr with me knowing the synopsis! [It’s the neighborhood bookclub I’m worried out… which is the one that introduced me to Death in the Garden. Read it.]
I really don’t get out much…
PS – Remember STICKY BOOKS? Those books that you loved and no one has ever heard of? Actually that isn’t the definition of ‘sticky books’ but this is THE book I loved and have never ever met anyone who has read: Out of the Flames. So go read this, too, ifyouplease. Thanks.
And a big shout out to everyone who has rec’d a book to me. Happy BBAW!